In Islam, the people of tasawwuf or Sufism, are considered to be those who constantly engage in remembrance of their Creator to find inward peace for the love of their Creator, as opposed to only striving for worldly things. This remembrance can be in the form of athkar or recitation of prayers and other spiritual acts according to the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It also refers to as Tazkiyyah Al-Nafs or cleansing the spiritual heart of one’s lower self or ego.
This practice holds true for any believing Muslim. In order to attain the best of one’s higher spiritual self, being busy with recommended acts of worship cleanses the spiritual heart of vices which negatively impact the connection to one’s Creator. The better the connection to one’s Creator, the better the spiritual journey of one’s soul. As a result, the better one’s chances are of entering paradise and being protected from entering hell. My question is how important is it to have the right guidance when directing your heart? How does spirituality impact you as a person and how does this affect you internally?
How to encourage spiritual growth?
From the aspect of one’s physical health, bad nutrition, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise are factors which can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle, and possibly hinder the quality of one’s life. Similarly, the concept of adhering to the commands of Qur’an and Sunnah can assist one’s spiritual growth, while the adverse causes spiritual harm. Based on the choices we make, which can either be psychologically or by following our physical desires which are outside the precincts of the Shariah, it creates internal battles between the higher spiritual self and the lower self or Al-Nafs. So, how does this affect my heart and the decisions I make?
The way I view it is people are presented with two choices regarding their daily lives. One choice is to do what is more pleasing to their Creator, and the other is to do what is pleasing to one’s self regardless of the possible spiritual harm or cause for displeasure of Allah (SWT). This is a constant internal battle of the heart to live in a way in which one either chooses to follow the commands of Allah (SWT) or to do what is pleasing to one’s self at the expense of the other. So, how do we protect our hearts from making the wrong decisions? Is it really such a simple solution?
The reality is it is not a simple solution. It is a constant battle of the inner self to follow a path more pleasing to Allah (SWT). By questioning the sincerity of our intentions, it is important to understand how one’s heart can affect the decisions we make in our daily lives. This includes whether or not we are following the tenets of Islam to the best of our ability with proper knowledge and guidance. So, how do I assist my heart to guide me to make better decisions?
Islam came with a purpose to equip us with valuable tools as to how we address our daily issues and to make decisions for the betterment of our souls. The reason why this is important is because the worldly life was created for challenges and tests. And as a follower of Islam, our worldly life and its beauty are but temporary, and the afterlife is eternal and what really matters. Being engaged with deeds which benefit our eternal life is seen as more beneficial to us. When addressing these concerns it is important to note that every person has with flaws, and that every person will be tested. The key is to repent afterwards and to change that which is harmful to our spiritual growth.
As stated in the Noble Qur’an (S7: V 153): “As for those who commit sins, and then repent afterwards and believe- your Lord, thereafter, is Forgiving, Most Merciful.” This is evidence to the fact that every person was created with a heart that can be misguided by following their desires and doing things which are displeasing to their Creator. The key to guiding your heart to prevent yourself from falling into sin is by cleansing it.
Islam gives us guidelines as to how best deal with the challenges we face. Assisting the heart to make better decisions is through cleansing the heart from vices. This can be attained through athkar, recitation of the Qur’an and practically implementing the rules of that which is pleasing to Allah (SWT). This eases the process of being able to decipher between that which is pleasing to Allah (SWT) and that which is not. This aids the heart in making decisions which are in line with the commands of Allah (SWT) and prevents us from sinning. This is only possible through ongoing learning and practical implementation of knowledge with the sincere intention of pleasing Allah (SWT), even if at times, it is at the expense of our desires.
It is important to note that we need to seek proper guidance from reputable scholars in order to be rightly guided in matters our knowledge about is limited. Identifying what is considered a flaw and restricting our desires to please our Creator is the ultimate goal for the higher spiritual self. Does this guarantee we will not make any mistakes? No, it does not, but it does provide guidance on how to avoid such pitfalls. Everyone has a different situation or trial and we will be judged according to it. Our efforts will yield rewards and the pleasure of Allah (SWT), the Most High.
As stated in the Noble Qur’an in S 13: V11: “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves”. This indicates that it is necessary to continuously strive to better one’s self. This means there has to be a conscious need and awareness or taqwa to want to please Allah (SWT) above our own self. Repenting sincerely from that which is displeasing to our Creator is what matters. We should ask for forgiveness and continuously strive for internal goodness. The result of which will assist our hearts in proper guidance in making decisions which are pleasing to Allah (SWT) and a protection from sin. In effect, it becomes a means of peace in our hearts.
May Allah (SWT) guide our hearts to that which is pleasing to Him, and ease our internal struggles in order to grant us success in this world and the next. Insha Allah Amin.