Purifying the lower self in the month of Ramadan

Updated 03 July 2014
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Purifying the lower self in the month of Ramadan

There is a subject matter that every believer who lives by the morals of the Qur’an should ponder on meticulously: Purifying the lower self in the month of Ramadan.
Allah informs about us of the lower self in a verse, “The self indeed commands to evil acts,” (Qur’an, 12: 53) and He guides us to the significance of purifying the lower self in the verses of Surat Ash-Shams: And the self and what proportioned it. And inspired it with depravity or piety, He who purifies it has succeeded, He who covers it up has failed. (Qur’an, 91: 7-10)
The blessed month of Ramadan is a very important period for Muslims to correct their lower selves, because during this time of fasting believers find it a great opportunity to think upon many details related with the morals of the Qur’an and attain a deeper understanding. While the self is disciplined with fasting, it is a valuable means for clearing other negative qualities of the lower self.
A person who is conscious of his being created for worshipping Allah and purifies his lower self always sides with the voice of his conscience when he has to make a choice between his lower self and his conscience since when a person encounters hardship or inconvenience, he hears two different voices from within. One of these is the voice of the conscience commanding the person to act with altruism, courage, good morality and always in line with Allah’s approval. If the person abides by this voice, his conduct will surely follow the good pleasure of Allah and be on the side of patience and surrender.
The second one is the voice of the lower self and that whispers rebellion, selfishness and fearfulness. Those who lend an ear to this voice are in a great loss because in that way satan that controls the lower self as a friend. Allah created good and bad, beneficial and harmful, beauty and ugly together in the life of this world to be a way of trial on the path to Heaven or Hell. This period of testing in this world is what discerns — in an indisputable way — the good and bad, and those that heed their conscience or follow their lower selves.
Believers abstain from the whisperings of satan and the desires of the lower self, and serve their Lord. They never stop abiding by the voice of the All-Merciful they hear from within. In this way, believers are content that what the lower self conveys to be pleasant are actually the transient pleasures of this world and have no reward in the Hereafter. For instance, he never misses the opportunity to act with honesty when the time comes, and responds with goodness to a person speaking with an evil tongue, knowing that these are all trials and he acts with beautiful conduct according to the Qur’an.
A great salvation awaits the ones who carry out good actions in this world and purify their lower selves by the will of God. In the Qur’an we are informed of this glorious finale of the believers: “It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful.” (Qur’an, 59:9)
It is also very important to recognize this avarice of the lower self. The voice of the lower self keeps a person distant from the approval of Allah; that is why it is in continuous attempt to undertake this purpose and whispers malice to a person unceasingly. For example, the lower self brings up all kinds of excuses to show that the fasting made obligatory by Allah to be a difficult worship.
Yet, a sincere believer fasts with eagerness despite all this strain and persistence by the lower self. He perseveres for the good pleasure of Allah, observes it with great joy and hopes for the reward from our Lord and takes great pleasure out of this.
Muslims purify their lower self from evil, and they hope for the approval and mercy from their Lord. A Muslim overcoming his lower self for attaining Heaven promised by Allah is steadfast in the face of all difficulties and is content and radiant in living by altruism and good conduct at all times. He is never under the influence of negativities.
Allah informs us in the Qur’an that Muslims are satisfied with living according to the morals of Islam and take deep pleasure from this; and they are intensely displeased of the contrary: “However, Allah has given you love of faith and made it pleasing to your hearts, and has made disbelief, deviance and disobedience hateful to you. People such as these are rightly guided. It is a great favor from Allah and a blessing. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Qur’an, 49: 7-8)
As a result of this constant vigilance against the traps of the lower self and a never-ending commitment to gain Allah’s good pleasure, sincere believers can hope to be rewarded with Allah’s infinite love and Paradise. Allah explains in a verse this beautiful outcome awaiting His sincere servants: “We will strip away any rancor in their hearts. Rivers will flow under them and they will say, ‘Praise be to Allah who has guided us to this! We would not have been guided, had Allah not guided us. The Messengers of our Lord came with the Truth.’ It will be proclaimed to them: ‘This is your Garden which you have inherited for what you did’.” (Qur’an, 7: 43)
The holy month of Ramadan is a good opportunity to make the right decision; to choose the conscience over the lower self with fasting, shunning those wrong actions that Allah wouldn’t approve of, and renewing one’s intention to make a fresh start as a truly sincere believer. InshaAllah, it will also be conducive to unity and love in the Islamic world as Muslims follow Allah’s orders to love and unite with each other.

The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.