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Islam and Spiritualism ( 8 Apr 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Tazkiyat Al-Nafs, Purification of the Self Is the Best Answer to Tribulations of Life

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

9 April 2022

Let Us Begin By Purifying Ourselves And Meditating On Our Creator

Main Points

1.    Tazkiyat al-Nafs helps us rid ourselves of animalistic desires and develop human values.

2.    Tazkiyat al-Nafs is a physical and mental exercise to develop the focus of attention towards Allah.

3.    Tazkiyat al-Nafs strengthens the faith of the believers and changes them both externally and inwardly.

4.    Self-purification training keeps you so focused on your Lord that you don't have time to notice the unpleasant things around you.


The evolution of moral standards is a natural process that every human being recognises. Most religions have mystics who teach their followers that by performing specific physical exercises, they can eliminate their reliance on a number of criteria that are otherwise regarded fundamental for the existence of the human body. Some Hindu Yogis claim to be able to go for days without eating. Religious gurus of other faiths cultivate their willpower and utilise it to achieve superhuman feats in order to prove the authenticity of their religion. Even non-religious persons can develop willpower and use it to hypnotise and control others.

In the world, there are several self-help groups that teach people how to be successful in life. Some businessmen employ psychological tactics to boost product sales. These are all common occurrences in our daily lives that persuade us that concentrating and directing your thoughts at a single spot can help you learn a specific ability. Some people achieve this by meditating, while others do so by engaging in physical activities that require mental focus, and so on. In order to lessen and erase undesired worldly attractions and cravings, Muslim Sufis and spiritual masters also encourage their followers to meditate on their Creator and fix their thoughts on a single point.

Tazkiyat al-Nafs (purification of the self) is one of the spiritual methods taught by Sufis. The Islamic Tazkiyat al-Nafs differs from the moral ideals taught in other religions. Three things are involved in Islamic Tazkiyat al-Nafs: (1) understanding the psychology of our brain's functioning in order to rid ourselves of animalistic desires and develop human values, (2) physical and mental exercises to develop the focus of attention towards Allah, and (3) knowledge of Allah's attributes and signs in the cosmos in order to develop absolute trust in Allah and His Apostle [peace be upon him].

For the purification of the self, it's vital to keep in mind that our lives on this planet are finite and temporary. We were brought to this planet to prepare for our after-death existence. The term Tazkiyah appears in various places throughout the Qur'an. Some of them are as follows:

“Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise." (2:129)

“Just as We have sent among you a messenger from yourselves reciting to you Our verses and purifying you and teaching you the Book and wisdom and teaching you that which you did not know.” (2:151)

“Indeed, they who conceal what Allah has sent down of the Book and exchange it for a small price - those consume not into their bellies except the Fire. And Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them. And they will have a painful punishment.” (2:174)

“Indeed, those who exchange the covenant of Allah and their [own] oaths for a small price will have no share in the Hereafter, and Allah will not speak to them or look at them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them; and they will have a painful punishment.” (3:77)

“Certainly did Allah confer [great] favour upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error.” (3:164)

“Have you not seen those who claim themselves to be pure? Rather, Allah purifies whom He wills, and injustice is not done to them, [even] as much as a thread [inside a date seed].” (4:49)

“Take, [O, Muhammad], from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them to increase, and invoke [Allah's blessings] upon them. Indeed, your invocations are reassurance for them. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” (9:103)

“But whoever comes to Him as a believer having done righteous deeds - for those will be the highest degrees [in position]: Gardens of perpetual residence beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally. And that is the reward of one who purifies himself.” (20:75-76)

“O you who have believed, do not follow the footsteps of Satan. And whoever follows the footsteps of Satan - indeed, he enjoins immorality and wrongdoing. And if not for the favour of Allah upon you and His mercy, not one of you would have been pure, ever, but Allah purifies whom He wills, and Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” (24:21)

“And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative. You can only warn those who fear their Lord unseen and have established prayer. And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul. And to Allah is the [final] destination.” (35:18)

“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is exalting Allah, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Exalted in Might, the Wise. It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom - although they were before in clear error.” (62:1-2)

“But what would make you perceive, [O Muhammad], that perhaps he might be purified” (80:3)

“And not upon you [is any blame] if he will not be purified.” (80:7)

“He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself” (87:14)

“He has succeeded who purifies it, And he has failed who instils it [with corruption].” (91:9-10)

“But the righteous one will avoid it - [He] who gives [from] his wealth to purify himself” (92:17-18)

In the spiritual framework of Islam, Tazkiyat al-Nafs (self-purification) entails reducing the inherent dominance of evil in the human soul and cleansing it of the pollution and impurities of sins that obstruct spiritual growth. Self-purification is the internal and exterior process of overcoming all of these evil desires.

The exegetes of the Quran have explained that the recitation of Quranic verses and the teaching of the Qur'an, as well as the teaching of wisdom and the mysteries of the cosmos, are topics related to the outer norms and acts of Sharia, whereas the cleansing of the soul is tied to the inward spiritual training. This spiritual instruction that changes men both externally and inwardly is known as self-purification.

The holy words "teaching you that which you did not know" in verse 2:151 indicate that there are some mysteries and secrets beyond the outer teachings and knowledge of the Quran. These teachings are known as Ilm al-Ladunni, Ilmul Marifat, and Ilmul Haqiqat. 'Wa Allamnaahu Min Ladunna Ilman' is a Quranic phrase that alludes to knowledge that comes directly from Allah into the hearts of the Prophets and saints. Ilmul Marifat is mystical intuitive spiritual truth knowledge attained via ecstatic experiences in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah scriptures. "Knowledge of Truth" is the literal translation of Ilm-ul-Haqiqat. So these were the mysterious disciplines about which no one had ever heard. Prophethood, on the other hand, had the obligation of revealing these spiritual sciences and cognitions to truth mystics.

Self-purification is a remarkable accomplishment for which God Almighty has praised and rewarded His slaves. An efficient self-purification process increases a believer's faith by removing doubt, ignorance, wicked concepts, erroneous convictions, and immorality. The Nafs [a believing soul] is implanted with good religious and moral traits such as sound belief, knowledge, gnosis, wisdom, and spirituality as a result of this process.

In the texts of Sufism seven stages of Tazkiyat al-Nafs are famous. They are Repentance (Tawbah), Abstention (Wara), Asceticism (Zuhd), Poverty (Faqr), Patience (Sabr), Confidence (Tawakkul) and Contentment (Ria).

Tawbah starts with the light of Divine Recognition in the heart, which recognises sin as spiritual poison. This causes regret and a desire to make amends for previous mistakes, as well as a commitment to avoid them in the future.

The ultimate level of Wara (pious self-restraint or abstention) is to avoid anything that can divert one's attention away from Allah, even for a brief moment. Some Sufis define Wara as belief in the reality of Islamic teachings, honesty in belief and action, adherence to Islamic commandments, and prudence in one's relationship with God.

Sufyan al-Thawri defines Zuhd as a heart action dedicated to the pleasure of God and blocked from worldly desires.

Both material and spiritual poverty (Faqr) should be maintained. This entails denying the soul’s desires for pleasure and power, as well as a commitment to serving others rather than self-promotion. A Faqir, or poor person, is another name for a dervish. Poverty is defined as a lack of attachment to one's things and a heart that is devoid of all desires except for Allah.

Patience (Sabr) is an essential quality for mystics and Sufis. The word Sabr literally means "to bear, endure, and overcome pain and struggle." Sabr can be divided into three categories: consistency in doing good deeds, patience in executing a good deed, and patience in abstaining from Haram.

Confidence (Tawakkul) is the realisation that whatever we have is a gift from Allah. Rather than relying on this world, we trust in Allah.

Contentment (Rida) implies accepting all manifestations of Destiny without complaint rather than rebelling against misfortune. Rida, according to Dhul-Nun al-Misri, is choosing the wills of God over one's own, accepting his Decree without complaint, and believing that whatever God wills and does is for the best.

One of the greatest benefits of self-purification is that it gives the ones who practice it happiness in this life before the afterlife. When we hear hate speeches or communal hatred we become concerned and upset. Hateful individuals are captured on camera exploiting religious sentiments. They repeatedly say and do similar things in order to provoke you. They have ruined their own lives and are mentally ill since a hatred agenda does not offer satisfaction to anyone, including the person who starts it.  They are deprived of peace and tranquillity. But if you retaliate, they will have more opportunities to fan the flames of hatred and violence against you. Self-purification will so protect you from such ailments even in such a situation. Self-purification training keeps you so focused on your Lord that you don't have time to notice the unpleasant things around you. Then Allah Almighty will provide you with invisible assistance and your life will be more enjoyable as a result. So let’s start purifying ourselves and meditate on our Creator.


A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.


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