Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
Some Positive and Negative Qualities
Tazkiyah-i-Baatin: Some Positive and Negative Qualities – and Activities. Or call it Tatheerul Qalb. It is the same thing. Or simply call it Tazkiyah – as the Qur’an does.
Human beings have an inside (Baatin) as well as outside (Zaahir) – a body as well as a soul. Both need considerable attention. Both need cleaning, feeding, priming, medicating and continuous monitoring. It is the incredible beauty of Islam – and another bit of evidence for its being from Allah – that it pays attention to the inside as well as to the outside of an individual.
Tazkiyah is the name the Qur’an gives to the cleansing process that people need to go through in order to merit being Muslims – those who still work for Allah while all the others seem to think they either don’t or they don’t have to.
Baatin is the inside aspect of the human being. That is where the Qalb is. That is the world of desires, instincts, passions and motivations. It is the inside that impacts and drives the outside – the Zaahir. Zaahir is what is visible to the outside world. Our actions – A’maal – such as Salat or Zakat or the way we treat people or conduct our business dealings are all part of the Zaahir – thus, making our Zaahir a mirror of our Baatin or what is inside of us.
At the same time our Zaahir also has a feedback effect on our Baatin. Bad acts – sins – darken the inside and impact good acts by making them more difficult.
Positive qualities and activities such as Taqwa and Dhikr make the inside healthy and strong. Negative qualities such as greed, jealousy, anger and hate make it weak and sick. Thus, in a human being both Zaahir and Baatin are closely interrelated.
While most of us tend to attach considerable importance to the outside, only few of us really worry about the inside – even some of the so-called good or better ones among us. As a result a wide range of problems that afflict Muslims today may be said to come from the fact that not sufficient attention is paid to the cleaning of the inside.
I have talked about several positive things that people need to have in order to function as good workers for Allah. These are qualities – and activities – of head, heart and other parts, dimensions and aspects of the human body, mind, spirit and being, such as Taubah, Ikhlas, Sabr, Dhikr and others.
We need to work hard to cultivate these positive qualities in us individually and retool our behavior to fit their requirements. We also need to work hard to create a common culture in our communities, organizations, Jama’ats and in our families and social gatherings that fits this mold. There is a spirit of Taqwa, of Sabr, of Ihsan and generosity, charity, forgiveness and giving that needs to pervade our groups, organizations, communities, gatherings and collective activities. We need to work for a general culture change in Muslim communities based on some of these principles and practices. From this point of view, we need to go back to our roots in our past – to the time of Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and to the days of the Salaf Saalih – to craft our future.
Slowly but surely, and with a lot of love, gentle persuasion and patience, as well as through personal example, as much as we can, we need to work to move Muslim individuals, families, organizations and communities in the direction of making these qualities a central part of our lives, character, culture and day-to-day functioning.
Then there is the other side of the coin. There are some equally important negative aspects of life that we need to guard against. These are negative qualities and activities of head, heart and human body, spirit and mind that we need to be aware of and avoid.
We need to work equally tirelessly, and with equal love, kindness, compassion and wisdom to rid ourselves, our families, our get-togethers and our communities, organizations, Jama’ats and culture of the evil of these negative qualities.
But whether we are talking about the positive or negative qualities, it is important for us to know that every aspect and dimension of a human being – body, mind and spirit – are participants in these positive as well as negative qualities and activities.
Also, what is important is to note that while most people treat them as qualities in individuals – as personal virtues or character flaws – they also have a social, collective and common cultural base, dimension and application. That is because the relationship between individuals and their families, communities, cultures and societies is an organic and dynamic one. This is an equation both parts of which influence the other.
These qualities – positive as well as negative – all have internal roots as well as external branches and shoots. And they all bear fruits of visible, clear, concrete and identifiable outcomes for individuals, families, organizations and communities – and indeed for the entire society.
To a certain clearly identifiable degree – and it is not an insignificant degree – human life, at individual as well as collective levels, is a product of the working of some of these qualities.
I outline below some of the negative qualities and activities of the human head, heart, body and spirit that we need to watch out for. Don’t worry whether they are in the head, heart, body or mind. We traditionally localize them in one place or another. But they are more troublesome than that. Often they don’t lend themselves to neat and total compartmentalization. The important thing to know is that they exist; they are real; they are pervasive and elusive; they are powerful; and they inhere in the totality of our being – they consume our whole person.
Also don’t worry whether they are individual qualities or social properties. We traditionally tend to sort them into one or the other bins and categories. But their perniciousness pervades and impacts the entire human system and its components from private and individual to public, social and collective. They affect all of human life and the full range of its ecology.
HASAD, KIBR, BUKHL, GHAIBAH
One general negativity in the human heart, born out of a lack of firm belief in Allah, but with several manifestations – that is what these negative qualities are about. They are symptoms of a human being’s spiritual sickness – Fee Quloobihim Maradun. They are manifestations of the domination in the life of a person, group, organization, community or society of a thing called Nafs.
These are a family of diseases of the heart – or mind or spirit or soul – and of our body and behavior. Sadly, Muslims are not immune from them, unless of course they take special precautions to avoid them and undertake rigorous measures to combat and remove them once they have invaded our spirit.
Make no mistake about this: They are individual ailments as well as social pathologies. They rob people of their personal happiness and well-being; they sow seeds of discord, disaffection and decay in families, groups, organizations and societies; they nullify purported good deeds and virtues; and they keep Allah’s blessings from entering the lives and spaces of those who operate under their influence.
These ailments are so deadly that they directly threaten our spiritual life – and also our physical life. Failure to address them in time means spiritual death – and often also physical disaster.
They are so destructive of our spiritual immune system – and of our social fabric of life – that with them burrowed deep in our mind, and in our body, nothing works – not Salat; not Siyam; not Hajj; not Zakat; nothing. Alas, how few of us know or understand this – and then so many of us spend the rest of our Islamic lives worrying and complaining about how there is no effect or Barakah in our work. How can there be?
Each one of these diseases may need considerable elaboration for which I have neither the time nor the space here. I am going to tell you very briefly what they are and let you take it up from there. At least this would alert you to the need and importance of trying to tackle them seriously.
Each combines important aspects of individuals’ personal lives with the well-being of the family, group, community and society as a whole. Thus they are both individual and social problems.
Let me say a few brief words here about each one of them. Read them carefully and then ask yourself why our lives are the way they are – at our own personal levels as well as at the levels of our families, organizations, communities and societies.
Hasad is being angry with Allah. Hasad is envy, jealousy and things of that ilk. It is basically resenting a certain boon or blessing – wealth, health, looks, children, skills, talent, popularity, success, whatever – that Allah has given someone else.
It is, Astaghfirullah! (May Allah forgive me for saying this) blaming Allah; it is tantamount to accusing him of unfairness; and it amounts to fighting with Allah by thinking in your heart – that is where the real action is in Islam, in the heart or mind – or speaking or acting to indicate why did Allah give this person this and why did he not give the same to me.
Simply put, you are saying that Allah does not know how to run his world – and that you do. What else, do you think, is left to be said thereafter?
Hasad is a terrible personal and social disease. It destroys or seriously damages individuals, families, groups, organizations, societies and cultures. If I may paraphrase and extend the meaning of a Hadith, Hasad eats up whatever good we do like forest fire eats up dry shrubbery on a windy day.
Kibr – conceit maybe – is competing with Allah. It is playing Iblis when Allah asked him why he did not prostrate to Adam along with the angels. Iblis’ answer was: I am better than him!
Ana Khairum Minhu! Qur’an (38:76)
If I may paraphrase and extend the meaning of a Hadith, Kibr is blind contempt for others and becoming tone-deaf to truth. It is a pathway to disaster in this world and to hell in the next world.
On the surface, Bukhl is about niggardliness; it is about being stingy; it is about hating to part with any of your money or other valuables.
But at bottom, Bukhl is about not trusting Allah; not being comfortable with him; not really believing him; turning your back on him. It is withholding from deserving others what Allah has given you – whatever it may be. Allah has repeatedly asked us to spend of what he has given us. Failure to respond to that command is a sure way to personal, social and societal and cultural decay and death. Bukhl dries up social arteries in a family, organization, community and society.
Ghaibah is another deadly disease of the heart whose symptoms drip out of people’s mouths in the form of negative remarks about others. These are generally remarks that would make those people unhappy if they found out that you said those things about them.
Here is the toughest part of it: If what you said is true that is Ghaibah – Ghaibat with French or Italian “t” in many places such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey. If, on the other hand, what you said is not true, it is slander and defamation of character punishable by law.
Well, do we need to say anything more about Ghaibah? It is one sickness that kills several birds – the speaker, the listener and the object of Ghaibat. At the same time, it destroys the organic bonds that bind a family, group, organization, community or society together. Ghaibat can do all this with little more than a set of words or gestures or other forms of communication.
Ghaibah has both individual and collective dimensions. So, also its targets can be an individual, a family, a group, an organization, a community or an entire culture or society.
The Qur’an says Ghaibat is like eating your dead brother’s flesh – how much more graphic or abhorrent can it get? Take a walk around Muslim social gatherings or homes or markets or streets – the air is heavy with what? The stench that fills our nostrils is putrid human carrion being devoured by us.
If our belief in Allah – our Iman – had deeper roots, if our cultural mainstream had cleaner springs feeding it, and if our socialization from the beginning had been along the right lines, we would be vomiting all over the place – throwing up clots of human blood and bits of human flesh and bones.
These remarks, like practically everything else I have said in this book, are quick and passing ones. I am basically alerting you to certain key ideas and pointing you in the general direction you need to be headed. Thereafter, it is up to you to pursue these topics in greater depth by carrying out your own personal research regarding them.
One of the not-so-productive things you can do is to take what I say and ask someone else to express an opinion on it. That sort of stuff is not fair to me, to you or to that person.
Therefore, before you come to the seminar try and work on some of these things; work on them while you are in the seminar; and go back home and keep working on them after you leave the seminar. If you are sincere and true and if you do it right, Allah will bless your efforts and you will see the returns, Inshallah!
Feel free to talk to me and ask me questions at all stages of this process about anything you read in this book or about anything else that you may consider important. That is what I am there for. I would like nothing better than to sit down and discuss with you issues that are of concern to you.
May Allah grant me and you – and those we love – freedom from these and other deadly diseases of the heart and spirit and cleanse our bodies, minds and spirits of them and of their nefarious and pernicious effects.
END OF CHAPTER 18
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology
© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.