Tazkiyah-Sufism: Our Unawareness of Spiritual Inner Ailments & its Treatment, By Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani

Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani

What are the spiritual inner ailments and treatments?

علاج، آتشِ رومی کے سوز میں ہے ترا

In my previous sitting, I explained that a skeleton of bones and limbs does not make a human being. The essence and the vital force of a human being is his soul. I also explained that the health of a human body is related to, or rather depends upon, the health of his soul.

Now, just as a human body is kept sound and healthy with food, fresh air, etc., so is the human soul kept healthy and sound by remembrance of his Maker. When a human body gets sick, it is cured with medication. Similarly, when a soul gets sick, it is cured by obedience to the laws and commandments of his Maker, by constant remembrance of his Lord and Master, and by expressing gratitude to Him, both by word and by action. The ailments of the soul are caused by forgetting the Creator and His laws. Allah says:

فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ فَزَادَهُمُ اللَّهُ مَرَضًا

in their heart is a disease, and Allah increased their disease. (al-Qur’an 2: 10)

The diseases of the heart or soul are disbelief in Allah, ascribing partners to· Him, dissimulation and hypocrisy, envy, malice, pride, vanity, greed, stinginess, love of high positions, love of wealth, and so on. And the soundness of soul is to know one’s real Master and Lord, Allah, and to believe that loss or gain is all from Him, to thank Him for His blessings and bounties, bear hardships with patience, trust in Him in all matters, hope for His mercy and fear His chastisement, be ever solicitous to seek His pleasure, and obey all His commandments sincerely and truly.

The only cure to get rid of these ailments of soul is al-Quran:

وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

And we reveal of the Quran that which is a healing and a mercy for believers.  (al-Quran 17:82,)


قُلْ هُوَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا هُدًى وَشِفَاءٌ

Say (unto them, O Muhammad): For those who believe it is a guidance and a healing.  (al-Quran 4 l :44)

Differences in the treatment of physical and spiritual ailments

The ailments of the soul are different from those of the body and, hence, their cure must naturally be different. Ailments of the body can be perceived by means of senses. You can see them with eyes or discover them by feeling the pulse or by means of a pathological test. They can be cured by means of medication or instruments which are tangible. But ailments of the soul cannot be perceived with any of the five senses. You cannot see them with your eyes nor discover them by a feel of the pulse and, hence, cannot be healed by perceptible means, diet or medicine. How to cure them, then? The only way to cure them is to abide by the prescription and medication’ as laid down by Quran and sunnah.

The beauty of Islam : betterment of inward and outward

A complete code of life, Quran and sunnah can reform man’s external behavior as well as his hidden (inner) beliefs and morals. Right from the time of Companions of Allah’s messenger, peace on him, to the present-day devout men, none achieved spiritual excellence without fully abiding by this code of conduct offered by Islam. They prayed, fasted, performed Hajj, and paid Zakat no less steadfastly and firmly than they adhered to inner (hidden) virtues like truth, sincerity, unity of Allah (Tauheed), humility, patience, gratefulness, trust in Allah, and renunciation of worldly things. They kept away from falsehood, theft, immodest, and other visible sins no less than they shunned and abhorred invisible vices like pride, vanity, love of wealth, hankering after positions of power, scorning and disdaining others, greed, and miserliness.

Valuable services of Islamic scholars to amalgamate inner self and outer self

The religious scholars have divided this whole code of conduct enunciated in Quran and Sunnah into separate prayers, fasting, hajj, zakat, marriage, and divorce, etc under Fiqh or Jurisprudence as for the inner (or hidden) acts, they took those that relate to creeds or articles of faith and set them apart under what is known as Ilm ul Aqaid (dogmatic theology). As for those relating to morals and social relations, they grouped them under mysticism.

But some learned scholars of Islam have put all these three sciences under one general heading. For example, ibn us Sabki, in the epilogue to his book ‘Jam ul Jawame’ which deals with jurisprudence, wrote also in some detail about mysticism, morals, and other inner (hidden) acts.

Works like Risala Qushairiya of Qushairi, Awarif ul al Ma’arif of Suharwardy, and Ehya ul Uloom of Ghazali deal at great length with internal (hidden) actions, their importance and how to reform and improve them, In our own time, the works of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi like al-Takash’shuf, al-Tashar’ruf, Masail us Sulook, Taalim ud deen, and Qasd us Sabeel, etc are comprehensive compilations dealing with the same subject.

Our biggest negligence in present times.

Muslims have for long-neglected religious sciences, especially the science that relates to reforming internal (hidden) acts. This neglect had a deleterious effect not only on the common masses of Muslims but also on a large number of religious scholars. The result was that the mere performance of some external acts was considered religion itself. Truth, sincerity unity of Allah, trust in Allah, patience, and gratefulness to Allah contentment, abstinence, and piety became hollow words devoid of any sense. Love of wealth, love of power, pride, rage, rancor, and envy held sway. And, worse still, even the desire to overcome these vices faded away.

Now I address my discourse, first, to myself and then to other men of learning and say quite frankly that we stress the external visible acts like prayers, fasting, etc., practice and behave in a way to look like we follow the canonical laws of Islam (Shariah), and to a very large extent avoid sins that are demeaning to scholars, sins which would detract from the prestige of scholars in the public eye. But there seems to be no desire in them to avoid internal (hidden) sins which are far worse than the external (visible) sins.

A thought-provoking Question

Now we ought to ask ourselves an important question: if our prayer and fasting and our abstention from sins like theft and adultery arc really prompted by fear of All ah and the belief in the Day of Accounting and the Hereafter, then why is it that we commit sins far worse than the aforementioned sins. Does it not prove that we are quite unafraid of God and the Hereafter?

Did it ever occur to our mind that our apparent conformity to the teachings of Islam could well be just professional? That is to say, our external behavior and practice may well originate from our love of social positions rather than the love of God. It may well be that we pray and fast in the belief that if we do not do so, we may lose our coveted positions of religious teachers, doctors of the law, prayer leaders, and preachers.

Perhaps we avoid external sins that cannot go along with our prestigious turbans and gowns and pay no heed to those sins which can be veiled by “priestly” regalia!

Today our preaching is ineffective. Rather it is the source and the cause of many afflictions and wrangling. The reason is not far to seek. It is in us, our behavior, and our mode of conduct.

We know from experience that religious scholars who were sincere,. devout and pious left an .indelible mark on people. Their instructions are still remembered and. their reformatory works continue to this day. On the contrary, great and famous research scholars have faded out of public memory, their works forgotten, their names unremembered.

Source: Dil ki Dunya, By Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani, Translated By: Muhammad Kamal Myshkat


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