Spiritual Development (Tazkiyyah): The Islamic Way

Islam does not subscribe to the type of asceticism where we purify our hearts and yet remain immersed in political, economic or social corruption. Tazkiyyah must encompass our entire life – the privacy of our thoughts as well as their social manifestations in our daily life. Everything must be in conformity with Allah’s will.

This will of God also requires you to seek and maintain a delicate balance between the various obligations that demand your attention; between your obligations to Allah, your obligations towards others and your obligations towards yourself. The Prophet advised us against extremism of any kind. It is reported that he said to Abdullah ibn Amr:

`Have I heard right that you fast everyday and stand in prayer all night?’ Abdullah replied, `Yes, O Messenger of God.’ The Prophet said, `Do not do that. Fast, as well as eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as sleep. For your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you.’ (Bukhari, Muslim.)

Unless you approach tazkiyyah as an all-embracing process, you will find that your life is compartmentalized, certain parts impeding the development of others. This can only result in a life of disharmony and unhappiness. Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, however, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part. This should, God willing, make your struggle on the path to God and Janna, easier and full of grace.

As you struggle to make headway on the path to God, always remember that you have an excellent example before you. This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace. Often we would like to emulate our sports heroes, our parents, our teachers, our friends or others who attract our attention. For your spiritual development, however, the most beautiful example is that of the Prophet. Allah says in the Quran:

You have, indeed, in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar, whoever places his hopes in God and the Final Days and who remembers Allah much. [al-Ahzab 33: 21]

The decision to purify and develop yourself requires that you clearly define the path and consider the ways and means to achieve Paradise. This whole process will not only purify your heart, but also affect your entire life and the will of Allah will become so much easier for you to follow. Following the Divine Will is, of course, tazkiyyah itself, Soon, all your efforts will be directed towards the ultimate goal – the pleasure of Allah and Paradise.

Know that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness, and forgiveness is a sure way to Paradise. As you strive to better yourself, then, simultaneously and continuously pray for forgiveness for all your shortcomings. God says:

And whoever repents and believes and works righteous deeds, God changes evil deeds into good ones, and God is Ever-Forgiving, Merciful. [al-Furqan 25:70]

It is a misconception to believe that simply by setting up Paradise as the ultimate goal, one can get there without any further effort. It is also a misconception that Paradise can solely be achieved by concentrating only on certain aspects of life, the `religious and the spiritual’. The very fact that Paradise is the ultimate objective means that tazkiyyah must be pursued in all aspects of life, and in life as a whole. Consider, for example, the following:

  • Is not honesty a means to enter Paradise? -Will not a sense of responsibility enable me to enter Paradise?
  • Will not striving to fulfill the needs of fellow human beings make me deserve Paradise?
  • Will not abstaining from vain talk and aimless actions, bring me closer to Paradise?
  • Is not consciousness of the best use of my time a key to Paradise?
  • Will not keeping promises and offering Salah on time, which are distinguishing traits of the righteous, put me on the highway to Paradise?
  • Must not all of the above be sought to attain Paradise?

Every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyyah In sha Allah (God-willing), if you take heed of all the prerequisites, blessings and benefits of tazkiyyah, you will surely find the right environment, the true companionship and brotherhood and the most appropriate training programmes to make the task of self development easier and more rewarding.

So give the good news to My servants who listen to the word [of God], then follow the beauty in it. Such are they whom God has guided And such are they who are endowed with understanding. [azZumar 39: 17-18.]

Source: In the Early Hours by Khurram Murad

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