Dispraise of Tireless Desire for Wealth

O you, whose time is fully occupied working to gain this worldly life, although this life is actually enslaving you: why do you collect that which separates you [from your Lord] and join that which tears you apart?! Woe to you: you are focussed on building a palace while, in fact, you are demolishing a country! Seek advice so that you may recognise the shortcomings of this life.

The malady of human beings is vain desires, and its treatment is found in firmness. When an ailment has already reached a very advanced stage, then cauterisation is the best course of action; you cannot prevent the harm of a bad neighbour simply by shunning him. Money is like water; the more you have of it the more you shall drown in it. The spider suffices with a corner in the house to build its home, but the assiduity of the fly to take it ended with its becoming food for the spider. All the while, the voice of exhortation tells you; though people make effort to seek their provision in this life, many a time it is the provision that seeks out and lands on the doorstep of its rightful owner instead.

Woe to you, divorce your false hopes so you can become the heir to your own wealth. The most deprived ones are those whose hard work benefits only others without benefitting themselves. The greatest good deed that a miser may do is to give charity, because by giving charity he actually combats two devils; the smaller of the two being Shaytan and the greater being his desires and its troops among whose ranks are the lion of covetousness, the dog of desires and the swine of gluttony.

Forward charity with outstretched hands; but if you are unable to, then at least restrain your hands from oppressing others. Liberate your tongue to indulge in the remembrance of Allah; but if you are unable to do so, then at the very least, retrain it from backbiting.

How long does a beggar stand on your door in humiliation with his tears flowing down his cheek, but you rebuke him saying, all what you say is nonsense! Indeed, the words of the starving on the ears of the one with a full belly will sound like nonsense! Woe to you, did you not know that charity is the mahr of Paradise! So stop piling up bags upon bags of money and be amongst those regarding whom Allah said, “who is he that will lend unto Allah a goodly loan” (al-Hadid 57:11)

And if you give charity, beware of saying or doing what may offend or hurt the beneficiary of your charity; the longer your wishful hopes live the more the deaths among the poor.

I wonder at those who greedily amass wealth, only to be dispossessed in a single stroke of misfortune! O you with a grieving heart, the agitation of your innermost self is apparent to the onlooker, because the secret emotion of your heart manifests itself through the expression of your face. Had you heard my words with your heart, you would have paid heed at the time, but my words only reached your ears, and there is a big difference between the two. The example of the former is Thalabah who jealously guarded his wealth, while the example of the latter is Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, who forsook all his wealth for the sake of Allah. Indeed there is a difference between miserliness and forsaking worldly pleasures for the sake of Allah.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 172-174

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Contentedness

O you who is afflicted with an ardent love for this life, although you shall never attain from it except what is decreed for you: there are many who attain provision without the least amount of effort, and there are many who expend all possible means but never receive any provision. Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, requested to be able to see His Lord but his request was denied, while Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was woken up from his sleep to hold an audience with his Lord even though he never asked for it.

Woe to you: poverty is, in reality, better for your affairs, and losing this world should put you at ease; were it for the desirous that they would become conscious of the consequences of actions! Plenty of good may lie concealed within what you dislike, which you would realise if only the cover over your eyes was removed.

Exalted is He Who ordained for the perfect to get along with the uncouth and ignorant in nature. The eyes of the mind (intellect) observe the outcomes, while greed only notices the immediate benefit; that is why the old man is exhausted when he attempts to discipline a young boy.

You should know that when you allow free reign to your desires, they narrow the road to your salvation. Your desires ruin the capital of your life with a reckless hand just as how an inept imbecile would do with a ball of wool.

O you who seeks help for the removal of poverty by employing his complaining tongue: know that what you perceive as the prison of poverty is actually a protective fortress, and it is indeed a sickness that only nobles suffer from. Poverty is a well and neediness is its depths, whereas self-desires are bonds of slavery; therefore “This wordily life is the prison of believers”.

Be like Yusuf, peace be upon him, who experienced the bitterness and hardship of living in the well and surviving in darkness, being sold into slavery and enduring imprisonment; perhaps, like him, you may emerge after all these hardships into the spacious kingdom of “appoint me over the storehouses of the land” (Yusuf 12:55)

Brace yourself for the night of hardship, for the dawn of reward is soon to break the night. Poverty is nothingness within which lies the existence of everything, whereas richness is an existence within which lies a void.

The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was offered enough gold to fill the valley of Makkah but he refused. O Muhammad, from whom did you learn contentedness? The state of his being answered: from my father’s haste. [This is a metaphoric employment of a situation as he refers to how the father of the Prophet was travelling for trade but died without achieving it whereas the Prophet, peace be upon him, did not indulge into worldly affairs, yet ruled the world]. The companions used to be offered wealth that was lawful, but they would refuse because of their contentedness with their state. O you poor people, embellish your poverty with the jewels of silence for the poor who is patient receives the honour to be among those in the company of Allah. Endure the thirst of indigence; a free woman would prefer to starve, rather than eat from one she earns from selling her body. It is indeed an insult to the Master when His slave asks help from someone other than him; therefore always ask help only from your master. O you heedless ones, who are so focussed on thinking about the means that you neglect to think of the One who creates the means and causes: it is He, the one Who gives, Who can also deprive and prevent, therefore “do not set up rivals to Allah” (Baqarah 2:22)

Whenever you are in need of anything, your action should be to immediately head to the niche (mihrab) and offer prayer, and suffice with serving your Lord, for he who serves Him shall never be neglected or forgotten by Him. It is He Who said: “Whoever was so preoccupied in My remembrance to ask Me [for his needs], I shall provide hime better than what I provide those who ask Me.” (Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman 572)

Woe to you, a truthful person who is needy abnegates all pleasures and temptations of this wordily life as he sees himself above them; as soon as he saw this worldly life rebuffing him, he in turn immediately boycotted it. His example is like a person who accidentally steps on a dead corpse whereupon he blocks his nose and quickness his pace; he then decides to walk on the road of contentedness were he finds a treasure that eluded even the like of al-Isqandar. This is because his heart is wealthier and more prosperous than Qarun even as his house is emptier than the void in Musa’s mother’s heart. As the poet said: He who wears the robe of contentedness will surely be rich even in destitution and will find fecundity even in a place of aridity.

When the poor are resurrected on the Day of Judgement they rush to the doors of Paradise to enter, but the Angels stop them saying: Hold on! Today is the Day of Judgement [you should wait until you are judged], upon which they display the sleeves of humility and reveal their deficiency, saying: And do you reckon we have anything to be judged for? And then proceed!

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 168-171

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Truthful Worshipping

Do not be impressed with the outward image of worship, but rather pay attention to the actual purpose of this worship, for indeed not all those who pray are worshippers, nor are all who fast ascetics, nor all weepers devotees, nor are all who associate themselves to asceticism, pure.

How many were those who ascribed to piety and abstention in the company of Maruf [an ascetic] but their names and figures perished, whereas the name of Maruf, which means known, remains known even after his death.

The people of sincerity [who fulfilled the duties demanded of them from the knowledge they acquired] left and only the bewildered and confused ones remain behind. Indeed, it makes me wonder! The pious have gone by, while those who remain from the people of sunnah are falling behind, in a state of stupor. The land is no more inhabited by the loved ones, and what used to be flourishing with worship, has now declined and collapsed.

In previous times, the Sheikhs were known for their diligence in acts of worship and high degree of piety, while their followers were known for being pain-takers [i.e. willing to endure all hardships to reach their goal to attain the pleasure of Allah]. However, today pain-takers and worshippers are all but non-existent. The follower used to inquire about that which perturbed him, and his Sheikh would immediately recognise the reason behind that which troubled his students and followers, but today, neither these exist, nor those. Before, the ascetic used to mock the devil, but today they are the ones that the devil makes a mockery out of. Asceticism used to exist in the hearts of people, but today it is only a token superficially appearing on people’s attire.

Woe to you, purify your heart and not your outward appearance, you are busy patching up your clothes, while you ought to be rectifying your intention; a person whose lineage can be traced and established to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, surely does not need to possess two strands of hair [It seems that having two strands (plaits?) of hair at that time used to be from the known characteristics of Ahl al-bayt and Allah knows best]. Why would you buy a bow though you do not have a string? Why do you belch when you are not even full? I wonder at you! How could a woman deliver if she is not even pregnant! If you will not have the persevering hopefulness of Yaqub, peace be upon him, then at least be not desirous as Zalikha. I feel pity for hearts that have been melted by their love for this wordily life, and for minds whose hopes are based on occult fabrications; they are being manipulated in the sea of desires just as how waves play with the one drowning.

Call those who have cut themselves off and moved to the valley of heedlessness! I wonder what sin made them remove themselves from the crowd of the pious!

Where can I find a worshipper who worships his Lord in the manner of al-Sar? Where can I find a person as determined and preserving in worship as al-Junayd was? Where can I find a person who strives and struggles with the intensity of Abu Yazid? Who can withstand the pangs of hunger like Al-Shublit? O you who likes to be compared to Ibn Adham, who do you not have his strong will and determination? Indeed, all tents look the same but the inhabitants are different.

The spindle of Rabiah [famous female ascetic worshipper] is broken and the cotton of al-Hallaj is all what remains today [i.e. none of what they did benefitted them afterward]. None the less, all that has remained with us of the pious of yore, are their tales and accounts.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam ibn Jawzi Pages 163-166

 

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Assembly of Repentance

The assembly of repentance is a gathering of grievers; among the attendants you will find those who weep over the sins they committed, others who mourn their shortcomings, some who cry for not achieving their aims, and others who are in grief over not being accepted by their beloved Allah.

Do you know why they [who sit there repenting] mourned and wept? Do you know what evoked their feeling of grief? They remembered a vow they had made, and whose purity they had strived to maintain, but then the vow had gotten tainted, and so their state of heart had changed accordingly.

Whoever hears the cooing of doves may think that they sing because they possess beautiful voices; what they do not realise is that they sing because they remember life that has gone past. Indeed the sinner will cry out over the house he built up with piety only to be ruined by sins!

O you once who had a bond with his Lord which he himself undid, O you who became perplexed regarding what he was ordained to do and stopped counting his bad deeds: weep for the days in which you were in contact with your Lord, for such days indeed warrant being cried over. Indeed, the remnants of the beloved engender in the heart nothing but sorrowful memories and concern.

O sinner, time marches along quickly, therefore hasten your repentance. The One who calls people to return and rejoin ties with their Lord says, “And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous” (Al-Imran 3:133)

O you who has a heart, where has your heart gone? Will you ever recover?

If it seems as if your heart has gone missing, do not despair that it exists.

Walk in the valley of seeking your Lord, while requesting his aid with your tongue [in remembrance]. Bid farewell to your covetous nature, and prepare yourself for the journey of repentance. Bring along the divine legislation to be your companion, seek all means and press forward with haste so that you may catch up those ahead of you, prepare yourself to enter the state of Ihram before you stand on the mountain of Arafah, send the troops of yearning to Mina so that you may receive a letter of love from the Lord of the Kabbah, before reaching your destination. Indeed, the pious devotees yearn to meet their Lord, thus the answer comes to them declaring that Allah longs to meet them even more than they are longing to meet Him.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 160-162

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Beware of Hypocrisy

Be truthful inwardly and that shall reflect on what pleases you, outwardly. Use the feathers of sincerity in the arrow of your deeds, and you shall certainly hit the target that you aspire for. I wonder at you, how will you ever achieve your goal, when your bow is broken because of your sins, and its string is cut due to your laziness? If you want to climb up to reach the high ranks, then you should take the stairs of piety, and if you want to achieve glory, the you ought to prostrate the forehead of humility, and if you desire authority then you should build up the pillars of sincerity, because – by Allah – you can never achieve any of that just by idly wishing!

If you step off the mount of sincerity, you will walk on a bumpy road that will hurt your feet, and worse it shall never take you to your final destination. Indeed, flaunting one’s deeds is the origin of hypocrisy, the hypocrisy of the hypocrites is what made a place of worship [Masjid al-Dirar] turn into a filthy place; therefore Allah ordered [His Prophet] “Do not stand [for prayer] within it – ever” (al-Taubah 9:108)

Whereas, on the other hand, the sincerity of the truly devoted can elevate the status of one whose outer appearance might be dirty and dishevelled [as long as he is sincere]; as the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Perhaps there is a person with unkempt, dusty hair who people will hold in low esteem, but if he were to swear by Allah, Allah would fulfil his oath.” (Recorded in Muslim 2622)

The stormy winds of hypocrisy cannot dislodge the tree sincerity, because its root is deeply established in the ground, whereas the tree of ostentation is completely uprooted, upon the arrival of the breeze of.  “And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed.” (al-Furqan 25:23)

Do not look at the ascendency of falsehood because it is only temporary; instead, await the establishment of the sovereign state of the truth. If you see a hypocrite having followers, then remember that in the time to come there shall be a Dajjal who too will have amassed followers, just as in the past there was the Samiri [who made the cow for Bani Israel] who also had a following. The latter therefore was punished with “It is [decreed] for you in [this] life to say ‘No contact’.” (Taha 20:97) While the former shall suffer a worse fate.

The pine tree takes thirty years to grow while it takes the pumpkin only two weeks to grow. “You need thrifty years to do what I succeed to do in just two weeks, yet people still put us on the same footing, calling us both ‘trees!’ The pumpkin plant said to the pine tree sarcastically. The pine tree replies: “Do not be hasty on your pronouncement; wait till the wind of autumn arrives [then let’s see who shall survive].”

How many are those who simulate the righteousness in their clothing and humility while, in fact, the mouths of hearts are replaced by their bitter taste. They are those about whom Allah has said, “[They are] those whose effort is lost in wordily life, while they think that they are doing well in work.” (al-Khaf 18:104)

Upon the fall of darkness, during the late night, men and trees look like each other, and cannot be distinguished [as men stand still all night praying without moving] but as dawn breaks the difference between them can be made out. At noon time, the mirage looks like water, but as soon as one gets closer to it, he finds nothing! How unfortunate it is to find plenty of imposters! They outwardly appear [sturdy] like palm trees, but are fragile and empty on the inside.

O pretentious one, the heart of one for whose sake you pretend is in the Hand of Who you disobey. Do not engrave the name of the King on a spurious coin; you should know that not every black piece is a date, nor is the fat better when the meat is swollen.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 156-159

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High Aspirations

O you who wish to stay in a place other than his; O you who appreciates safety after experiencing wreckage and ruin: take advantage of your life, the bricks of which time brings down day after day; for you know that the end of life is death! So admonish yourself by being cognisant that your existence will come to an end.

Woe to you, pursue asceticism in order that it brings you out of this life, stuffed with nothingness, and stations you in the presence of the Divine. Neglect the demands of your vain desires, for if you reach that high position, never again will you experience the loss of a beloved, or have any of your wishes remain unfulfilled.

O you, the best guide to show you the right way is your heart (i.e. intellect), and the most ignorant of guides is your desires. So, walk as per the directions of your heart, and pay no heed to where your desires try to direct you.

O you whose endeavours are high, mount the back of strong will, no matter how long the journey is. It is a propitious sign to tear apart the chains of lassitude, and the sign of failure is to be in the company of wishful thoughts.

Your self-desires urge you to seek immediate gratification, but as soon as the knight of your determination closes in, the devil makes his escape, thwarted. O you in love with this wordily life: your value is only that of what you love; if your endeavours were truly high, you would have taken no notice of this wordily life! O you who claim to have achieved the status of a devoted friend, do not claim what you are not, because yo always favour even the least of your desires over your Lord, and were it not for, “And We will surely test you until We make evident those who strive among you [for the cause of Allah] and the patient, and We will test your affairs.” (Muhammad 47:31)

The coin of your deeds would have been concealed. As one poet said: ‘It is during the times of displeasure, not happiness, that those who love you can be distinguished from those who dislike you.’ Your heart is in a state of oblivion, due to your over-indulgence in the pleasures of this wordily life! There is no longer any use in talking to you; when the target itself has fallen, then the arrows are of no use. You have used the inebriation of your desires to block the gate to your heart; therefore even the torrent of exhortations and sermons can’t reach it! You left the prosperity afforded to you by piety and ended up falling in an impoverished state due to your errors.

How long have you been resolving to repent and do good? Do not you know that to discipline and correct yourself at an old age is nothing but a burden! Why can’t you sight the light of repentance?! You spend the night in devotion as if you were Uwais al-Qarni, but when the day commences you turn into the likes of Qays, undoing the bonds of your strong will, link by link; indeed every person whose death is due to his desires is the companion of Urwah, and you have buried many of those whom you love, but would Kathir ever stop loving his beloved Azza?! [Kathir and Azza is a famous platonic love story like that of Qais and Layla]

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 153-155

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Night Prayers

O you whose nature is unyielding and whose heart is inclined towards his nature: think of the purpose for which you were created, and what is it that Allah made incumbent upon you. If you wish to ride the stallion that is your soul, then you must tame it, and counteract the effect of your mercurial nature, so that you can harness it for proper use. Look for the dawn of reward during the nights, and pour out the intoxicant of your desires, is that you do not get caught by the One in authority [Allah].

The water of your nature is brine, whereas the water of your heart is sweet, your intellect standing between the two as a barrier, just as al-Khidr’s firm stance. So be like Musa, peace be upon him, and do not abandon your self-discipline until you arrive at the meeting point of the two oceans. Stand on the leg of patience [praying all night] even if standing is too wearisome, as it is better than sitting down. O you who has been asleep all night long, the company has already left, and the sun of old-age is upon you and yet your sleep does not end. If you had been awake in the last part of the night, you would have seen how the road of the pious slaves is crowded and had you gone to drink from the well of Madiyan, you would have found many people quenching their thirst from it.

How bright is the night of the pious, which is spent by them in worship; they remain standing, leaning on the pillar of their fear of Allah, as they approach the road of longing to their Lord, as the night covers them under its roof. When they sigh [out of their love of Allah] they are more adoring than a lover, and when they mourn [from fearing Allah and their love towards Him] they are more eloquent than al-Khansa [the female poet].

They found the right path, and hence walked on it; “Indeed, those who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ and then remained on a right course.” (al-Fusslat 41:30)

But how far behind you are from even catching the traces of dust left by their caravan trail! Their hope does not stretch far at all, and their houses are more austere than a grave, their sleep is rare and their conditions are softer than a breeze. For them, spending the night in prayer is more joyful, than sleeping at night after waking up. Whenever they recite a Surah from the Qur’an they reflect on it as passionately as Yaqub, peace be upon him, when he caught a waft of Yusuf’s aroma.

Be present during the last part of the night, and join the worshippers long enough to witness the lavishing of the King’s gifts upon them, because even if you were not amongst their party, you might at least receive a portion of what they received, “And when [other] relatives and orphans and the needy are present at the [time of] division, then provide for them [something] out of it [i.e. the estate]” (al-Nisa 4:8) When you exhale, giving out breaths of regret, they rise and form clouds, to patter upon you drops of forgiveness. And if you shed a tear on the cheek of repentance, you will give life to your barren heart.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi pages 150-152

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