of knowledge and purification

“Two people will never be satiated: seekers of knowledge and seekers of the world.” – Prophet Muhammad SAW

In recent times, the worldwide plague of crime and terrorism has commonly been associated with religion. Hatred as a disease is known as one of the most devastating forces in the world and more often than not, the prevalence of social media alongside ”freedom of speech” has spurred on Islamophobia. It has become common now to misconstrue a bad incident as one due to the religion instead of just extremism by a few whack jobs.

It would cause a lot of friction and unnecessary unpleasantness if one were to go replying to all these negative comments or to practice ”an eye for an eye” sort of attitude. It would never end and it seems like a shame when Islam has a strong emphasis on love. When you have an enemy, pray for them with the utmost sincerity and eventually the hatred is driven out of your heart. (Hey, no one said it was easy to be a bigger person..)

We could look and comment on how societies function as a whole and point fingers, but really, what good would that do? What real impact would it bring? Due to these different thoughts, I figured that maybe it would serve some benefit to learn more about Islam in a way that I can relate to. There are many aspects one can appreciate about Islam, like the sense of structure it brings, its emphasis on always increasing knowledge and how the Quran is the complete guide to the life and Hereafter. I believe strongly in these aspects and feel there are many ways to progress and learn more to have a greater appreciation for things.

Some people get intimidated because they may not have sufficient knowledge and there are some who may feel like ”Oh she/he is going to be an extremist since she/he is learning more about religion.” Or maybe ”Hah, she is showing off and will get more judgmental.” Admittedly, I sometimes worried about how people might view me for taking steps to learn more and practice religion, more so since I like to share what I learn with others. Then I read this:

”Abandoning a good act out of fear of ostentation is worse than engaging in ostentation itself. It is better to continue with one’s good deeds and to work and to keep one’s intentions pure and sincere.” – Imam Mawlud 

Moreover, it is easy to be put off religion if one approach of learning may not work or if you take what some people say or champion at face value. I used to feel angered when I heard the way certain things were being preached yet did nothing about it. I could have saved myself from unnecessary frustration, had I decided to pick a few books up on my own.

One thing that helped was how some strong girls I know were more attuned to their religions (be it Islam or others) and it was not like they got more close-minded. There was a greater peace and stability about them and I felt my respect increase for them. I admire them for their experiences and knowledge and also realized that the onus is on one to learn more; there are only so many scapegoats one can blame. I would also hate to practice something I may not understand enough about as you would lack the conviction and sincerity in those actions. There is beauty in religions, waiting to be tapped into and we should at least try approaching or absorbing knowledge with open minds.

Islam also emphasizes MODERATION, i.e. you focus on this world and also the next. Yes, there is more emphasis on the Hereafter, but you still have to make your actions count in this world. Secondly, there is no compulsion or judgment of others (self-righteousness) in Islam because God does not want blind followers or hypocrites. Nowhere in the Quran does it say to go bomb people you do not like and if one were to read the Quran or hadith, you would see it with your own eyes.

There is this hadith by Prophet Muhammad SAW that says: ”None of you has achieved faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Imam al-Nawawi commented on this with the following:

When the Prophet says ”brother”, we should interpret this as universal brotherhood, which includes Muslims and non-Muslims. The word ”love” here refers to a desire for good and for benefit to come to others. This love is celestial or spiritual love and not earthly or human love, for human nature causes people to desire harm to befall their enemies and to discriminate against those who are unlike them [in creed, color or character]. However, men must oppose their nature, pray for their brothers and desire for others what they want for themselves.

I decided to get a simple translation of the Quran (old/complicated English sooo does not appeal to me), but also to read this book called Purification of The Heart by Hamza Yusuf.

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Am halfway through this book and it is one of the most interesting reads I have come across. Some of the excerpts that stand out to me so far are as follows:

”The heart is a spiritual organ and an unseen aspect of the heart contains a bad seed that has the potential of becoming like a cancer that can metastasize and overtake the heart (similar to the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis). It is said that when one sins, a black spot appears in the heart. And if the person repents, it is erased. But if he does not, it continues to grow until the whole heart becomes pitch black.”

“If a religious person starts to believe that he is better than other people – even if these “other” people are in the state of disobedience – he invites haughtiness. This is the danger of obedience and religion: self-righteousness.

Imam Ibn Ata’allah said “How many a wrong action that leads to a sense of shame and impoverishment before God is better than obedience that leads to sense of pride and arrogance.” “

“What a person repeats on his tongue, might eventually reach the heart, even if the heart is not yet engaged, for the heart of man lies under his tongue. (Interestingly, in Chinese medicinal theory, there is a direct connection between the tongue and the heart. Even the movement of the tongue affects the heart.)”

This book is meaningful since he links the signs, symptoms and cures of the spiritual diseases of the heart to history,knowledge and practices of other cultures. Therefore, it gives one interesting insights and more context to the knowledge regarding our every day afflictions, such as anger, fear of poverty, envy and seeking reputation. It gives a positive yet practical outlook on life from an Islamic context.

From his introduction:

”Every criminal, miser, abuser, scoffer, embezzler, and hateful person does what he or she does because of a diseased heart. So if you want to change our world, do not begin by rectifying the outward. Instead, change the condition of the inward. It is from the unseen world that the phenomenal world emerges, and it is from the unseen realm of our hearts that all actions spring..

We of the modern world are reluctant to ask ourselves – when we look at the terrible things happening – ”Why do they occur?” and if we ask that with sincerity, the answer will come back to us in no uncertain terms: all of this is from our own selves. In so many ways, we have brought this upon ourselves. This is the only empowering position we can take.”

When you ponder over it, there is a parallel in this knowledge with what we hear from behavioral/motivational speakers. The knowledge is provided there, it is up to us to learn and apply them to ourselves and share them with others. Learn in a way that you can relate to and Insyallah you will gain a greater benefit. Through that, you can benefit fellow men and spread strong positivity with conviction that can echo through times.

“Before us they planted, and now we eat what they have planted. We too must plant, so that those after us will likewise eat.” – Arab Proverb

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