Condemnation of Shaytan

O brothers and sisters, the care of Allah is a source of perpetual wealth.

When it was ordained by divine decree before the beginning of time, that low-lying mud [Adam] would be favoured over rising fire [Jinn], hell recognised that the latter was of the same essence as dust itself. Dust resisted fire and thus overcame it; and this itself was sufficient as a lesson for hell; and indeed fortunate is the one who learns from others’ experiences. And thus when the believer passes over it, hell submissively says, ‘pass, for your light extinguishes my flame.’

Pure hearts are lamps that illuminate from within the innate nature of beings, prior to any form of divine revelations, “whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire.” (Surah Nur 24:35) As soon as the light of guidance shone out from the house of al-Khayzaran [the house of al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam], Umar ibn al-Khattab found himself standing on its doorstep. On the other hand, when the heart of Shaytan became blind, the daylight of guidance became as dark as the night for him, because his heart’s eye was deformed therefore the way of guidance became as dark as the night for him, because his heart’s eye was deformed therefore the way of guidance, despite its clarity, was of no benefit to him. His example is that of a bat that returns to its nest saying to the other bats, stay inside and sleep for the night has just fallen, but they reply to it saying: It has just been sunrise and yet you say it is nightfall! And the bat replies: please show mercy to the one who is unable to distinguish sunrise from sunset.

As soon as the lights of prophethood shone, the eyes of Bilal the Habashi, may Allah be pleased with him, whose status was low at the time, caught sight of it, whereas the eyes of Abu Talib the Qurayshi, whose status was high at the time, failed to see it. O brother, beware the arrows of Allah’s Power and be warned because your vigilance will not avail you. That said, do not let some of your sincere good deeds put your heart at undue ease, on the contrary, you should be more concerned, knowing as you do that “the hearts of individuals are between two Fingers of the Fingers of Allah and so he changes them as He wants.” (Reported in Tirmidhi 3522) Whenever judges are litigated by others, the case always goes in favour of the judge.

The example of Shaytan is that of a town that once prospered with worship, but a winter thunderstorm came and struck it down, causing the death of all its inhabitants; so the house of deeds of Shaytan and his ilk became as Allah says, “So those are their houses, desolate because of the wrong they had done.” (Surah al-Naml 27:52)

Thus the garment of Shaytan’s prior worship was taken away from him and reduced to the grade of the discarded food of the dog of the companions of the cave; therefore this pitiful creature expressed his enmity against mankind, sparing no time or effort in striving to bring about mankind’s downfall? Rather, it was his frustration for what he had lost; the pride of “I am better than him” (Surah Sad 38:76) caused Shaytan’s ruin whereas the humility of “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves.” (Surah al-Araf 7:23) saved Adam, peace be upon him, because true servitude to Allah necessitates lowering one’s self in humility before the Lord.

The wretched Shaytan thought that by his refusal to prostrate before Adam, peace be upon him, he was saving his pride and dignity while, in fact, his refusal subjected him to the humiliation of “And indeed, upon you is My curse until the Day of Recompense.” (Surah Sad 38:78) Thus he became like the person who escaped rain by standing under a gutter. Indeed the garment and adornment of worship was not fitting for him, and hence it was taken away from him.

Shaytan’s understanding was flawed and abnormal, and not for one such as him to uphold the adornment of worship, whereas Adam, peace be upon him, had sound understanding, therefore the hood of dispute did not at all suit him. The mandate of decree had served to bring out the distinctive characteristics and behaviour of each of the two, following which both of them were restored to their respective origins (i.e. Shaytan to fire and Adam to earth).

It is reported that Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, encountered Shaytan, wrestled him and overcame him. If Shaytan could have spoken at that moment, it would have said, ‘O Umar, I have already been struck dead by the sword of humilation.’ ‘O Umar, [before Islam] you did not recognise the road [to Allah]’, while on the other hand, I used to be in a state of power and authority and even had Angels under my command. However, the declaration of “He will not be questioned as to that which he does, but they will be questioned.” (Surah al-Anbiya 21:23) was made, and thus I was removed from my position and he replaced me with you; so be wary of the change of conditions and circumstances, for the sharp sword that killed me is still in the hand of its owner. This continuous concern [over his state and his outcome] is what made Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, always rush to Hudayfah [who was the keeper of the Prophet’s secrets and the one whom he trusted on the names of the hypocrites; and Umar feared that his name might be among them due to his constant mindfulness to Allah and his fear for Him].

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 196-200

 

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Incapacity and Lassitude

When the pious supporters of Allah find themselves engulfed in the darkness of this wordily life, they cut off the threads of their desires by striving and through self discipline. The paths leading to safety have been lit up for them and they make acquaintance with one another along the way. Whenever the lightning of hope flashed they walk forward, and when the night of fearing Allah arrives, they stand still in order to pray; therefore they are forever shifting between the state of fear and hope, such that when people see them, they think them to be insane.

During the daytime, the devotee is in a state of anguish due to his being conspicuous among the throngs. The bulbul of his thoughts and feelings is as if locked in a cage that keeps him from revealing his true state and condition. It is only upon the arrival of the breezes of late does his soul transcend to a state of indescribable divine comfort that extends from the palace of wishes to the land of hope, upon which the yearning traveller starts feeing the gentle breeze of ease while being immersed in a feeling of passion.

O brother and sisters, the day of the one grieving is as dark as his night, and the night of one unaccepted [by Allah] is like his day. O you whose sight is too blind to discern the path of the pious, Allah has restored your eyes for you so that you can see the path. However, this is a matter that does not reveal itself to a heart darkened by desires until it is first polished with self-struggle. Your terrain is full of thorns of sin, but had you surrendered it to the One who would cultivate and develop it for you, you would have certainly had different results “[It will be] on the Day the earth will be replaced by another earth.” (Surah Ibrahim 14:48)

Woe to you: your state of bankruptcy [i.e. no account of good deeds] is a result of your dangling between the state of incapacity and slackness.

Whenever the pious used to hear a sermon, it would implant within their hearts a palm tree of strong resolve and lofty endeavour, whereas the effect of a sermon on your heart is only to grow a few grassy shrubs.

I truly wonder at this! I do not know who I ought to describe these people to! Because I feel as if I am reciting the Surah of Yusuf to Rubel! O you who is expelled (from Allah’s Mercy) yet do not realise it, know that the pain of lashes can only be felt by a person with some feeling left in him, because by Allah, if you were really distressed by Allah’s turning away from you, you would never have been in a comfortable state! Your example with respect to lethargy and apathy is like the two companions of the Judhaymh; but sadly this admonishment falls on a heart that is deaf!

This rebuke might have been effective had the one being rebuked any sensibility whatsoever! Had there been embers, I would have tried to blow on it hoping to get a fire started; and despite there being a field ready to be harvested, food is still unavailable. The fence of your piety is full of breaches, and your foes have already surrounded your land, there time is precious little time, so do not delay any longer in rectifying your deeds. Be generous, before your are judged and criticised. Woe to you, the moment of your departure from this world is ever near, yet you have neither set aside yourself fruits of good deeds to stave away the pangs of your hunger, nor filled your bottle with the drops of your tears, to cool down the heat of your midday sun. Spare, yourself with earnest resolve earnestly for the long journey ahead of you, and thus live, without falling  into the traps of your desirous self.

O you who is left alone in the desert of his desires, cut off from his companions, hasten so that you might catch up with your people because the leader of your traveling group does care for the straggling members of his group; press on ahead without making any stops, even if your feet have become swollen. If you are held up on your way by the caravan of fatigue, seclude yourself up from everyone and call out for help while shifting between hope and fear of your Lord.

O hermit of this monastery, has any travelling caravan passed by you? How sad it is for one whose regret is of benefit for him no longer. This is because hands of idleness and languor manipulated his time; thus he needed up lost, and the palms of old age broke apart the hand-hold of his youth, and thus he ended up ruined.

O you who pray at night, kindly intercede for those who spend their nights in slumber; O you whose heart is alive, be so kind as to ask for the Mercy of Allah to be bestowed upon the one whose heart is dead; O you, the ambassadors of endeavour, kindly deliver the letters of the distressed.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 192-195

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Journeys of Life

From the start of our creation, we go through six stages [of life] before we settle down in our final destination:

The first stage: The creation from clay

The second stage: The semen proceeding to the womb

The third stage: Transference from inside the womb to the outside world.

The fourth stage: Transference from life to the grave

The fifth stage: Transference from the grave to Judgement

The sixth stage: Transference from the Judgement to the final destination (i.e. Paradise or Hell)

So far, people have crossed half this journey, but what is about to come is indeed more difficult.

O brothers, the years are like phases, the months are like miles, the days are like years, and breaths are like footsteps; good deeds are like your capital wealth and sins are like highway robbers; Paradise is like the profit earned from the journey and Hellfire is the loss. For this reason, the pious make good use of all the time they have, trading good deeds at the marketplace of worship and therefore abandoning worldly pleasures.

Whenever they come across a boat of life sailing in the sea of existence, their dedication to Allah’s worship makes them overlook the wonders of the sea. And as soon as they disembark at their final destination, they become overwhelmed with a sense of comfort, and so they are admitted into a land where they are assured a firm bond with their Lord, while at the same time they have assured for themselves a profitable gain for all eternity.

O you whose endeavours and aspirations are low; if you contemplated with an insightful heart upon what these people have gained, your tongue would surely wail deploringly: O how I wish I were with them! But in reality, you are far from them as the sky is from the earth!

Woe to you, the merchandise [deeds] of the pious have been paid into the safe-deposit of days, and they have sewn in the farm of this life the seeds of their love for their Lord. Then when you see them start to reap the harvest of their deeds, the voice of reproach will call you: You are like a person who has wasted a drink of cold water in the sweltering summer!

The barrier of heedlessness was removed from in front of their eyes, so they were able to see without having to look and speak without needing to utter words. The eyes [of the heart] see Him, though He is beyond the grasp of the creation’s vision. They exhausted their bodies in the journey of love until they arrived at their final destination; indeed “There are a people who have passed away; theirs is that which they earned and yours that which you earn.” (Baqarah 2:141)

Once a man with a pallid face and emaciated body entered upon Umar Ibn And Al-Aziz so he said to him: “Why do you look that way (i.e. weak and ill)?” The man said, “I tasted the sweetness of this life, and realised its bitterness; and since then I have been spending the nights in prayer and the days in fasting. And all of that is nothing compared with the punishment of Allah.”

Their hearts have melted in the fires of Allah’s fear, the flames burning the very root of their desires; their skin colours turned sallow due to their fears Allah’s punishment and their heads lowered down in shame. If you wish to know their state and circumstances then you ought to listen to the words they utter in between sighs and breaths [i.e. their remembrance of Allah constantly between each breath].

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 189-191

 

 

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The Crow and the Spider

O you who opened the gate to wealth and comfort using a key other than the key of piety: have the impudence to complain about the narrowness of the road of provision, even though you yourself are widening the road of your sins? If you had piety, nothing of what you seek would be difficult to attain, because the key of piety opens every door. When the pious, who fear Allah, settles himself down with pure piety, he shall never be harmed. On the other hand, when he deviates from piety, then he shall encounter nothing but distress and aggravation.

The moment you turn away from Allah, he shall turn away from you. The oceans of His Grace upon the creation remain munificent, “That is because Allah would not change a favour which He has bestowed upon a people until they change what is within themselves.” (al-Anfal 8:53)

Woe to you, if you recognise the fact that this world was created for you, then why do you think that He who created it for you would keep away from you what is yours? In reality, it is just your desirous nature that is being glutted by wordily pleasures while, in fact, moderation is more appropriate and beneficial for you.

You are the most precious creature to Allah, so be content with what Allah has decreed for you, because he who loves never questions or accuses the One he loves. The Grace of Allah upon you in all that He has created for your sake is as clear as daylight, so how could you imagine that he would neglect you when you are at the root of it all?

Greater than the wonder of a foetus in the womb getting nourishment from the menstrual blood of its mother through its connection to her, is the wonder of an egg that has come out of the mother hen, yet it includes within it both the white from which the chick is created and the yolk from which the chick gets its sustenance. This is indeed a wonder that signifies how a creature is provided with its sustenance before it has even come into existence.

When a crow hatches from its egg, it comes out with a white colour. However due to the apparent difference between the mother crow and the hatchling, the mother fails to recognise its offspring and abandons it at first. The hatchling however keeps its beak open for food, and the merciful has destined that the flies in the air fly into its open mouth, giving it sustenance, until it develops and its colour changes to black, whereupon the mother unties with her child.

Observe the kindness and compassion of Allah; He inspires ants to store food and inspires them to break the seed before storing it, so that it does not grow afterwards; he inspires them to break the seed of coriander into four quarters, because if it was broken into only two halves it would continue to grow. As the poet said: There is a sign within everything, that proves that the Creator is One.

To see a spider while it builds its house is to witness craftsmanship that would dazzle and confound architects. It seeks two points that are near each other while at the same time ensuring that there is enough space between them for it to cast its web-silk from one location to the other. Then it secretes its silk and casts it between the two points, and after it assures that the strings are taut, it begins joining the string segments together. While to the onlooker it may seems that the spider’s actions are haphazard, however in reality, the spider is actually building a net to trap its food. After completing the web it goes to the corner and waits and keeps a watch out for prey to fall into its trap; if an insect manages to get trapped in its net, the spider straightaway begins reaping the harvest of its efforts. But in case it is unable to trap an insect in this manner, it resorts to a different technique; it finds itself another nook and prepares a web thread connecting the ends, and remains suspended, in preparation for a fly that might pass by; and when a fly draws near, it leaps to capture, and utilises the web thread to wrap the flies legs to prevent it from escaping! Do you for a moment imagine that the lowly spider could have learnt this all by itself? Or did it learn it from others of it own kind? Why do you not realise the wisdom and power of the One who taught it what it knows and Who made it learn? The miraculous creation calls the heedless to observe the signs within themselves, so that they might be guided to the gates of the Creator, but they are unable to hear.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 185-188

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Characteristics of Worshippers

A person who knows his Lord should constantly be in the service of his Lord, because he recognises and appreciates the value and importance of time; therefore during the day he observes his duties and fulfils the rights of the King [Allah], while his night is dedicated to conveying his love and devotion to his Lord; thus he never finds a moment of repose.

When the perceptive heart ponders the consequences of actions, just as how Yusuf, peace be upon him, did when he was seduced, it cuts off the hands of the covetous self with the knife of longing to his Lord. For them, a camel entering through the eye of needle would be easier than having to hear reproach or criticism with respect to their worship. And when the time comes [i.e. the Day of Judgement] those who travelled throughout the night [i.e. worshipping] will rejoice for traversing the long miles [towards the Hereafter] and the tongue of their endeavours will rebut the approach, “This is he on whose account you blamed me” (Yusuf 12:32) Indeed, the more endeavours and aspirations magnify, the less significant the corporeal body becomes.

Yahya ibn Muadh said: “Let solitude be your abode and beseeching your Lord be your speech; either you die from your illness or you procure its remedy eventually. Some people entered upon Abu Bakr al-Nahshali, a pious preacher, while he was in the market, and they found him bowing and prostrating even there. Some people entered upon al-Junayd while he was on his deathbed, and they found him praying. After he finished, they greeted him and so he replied to their greeting and said: This is not a time for wasting, after which he commenced the Salah again.

Their hearts quake out of their fear of Allah, just as a bouncing ball wobbles when hit with a stick. Thus, their hearts held in pass of anxiety are carried into the vast lands of love, where you find the passionate being overwhelmed while invoking his Lord, the tranquil supplicating freely and the fearful seeking the refuge with his Lord.

Their bodies, once in their prime, have worn our due to their self-discipline; their souls have been bejewelled inside the shell of body; and so both take upon the quest of yearning for their Lord. Their tongues are busy in the remembrance of Allah, their inner thoughts are overwhelmed by Allah’s love, their eyes shed tears of fear, and their self flees from this life to the house of asceticism.

Whenever people saw al-Hasan al-Basri, they would think as though calamity had just fallen him. Malik ibn Dinar had a black line running down his cheek from how much his eyes shelters. Ata al-Salami used to weep in his room so much that his tears would drain into the gutter of his house; one day his tears splashed on a person who was walking in the street, whereupon the man shouted; O people of the house, is the water pure? Ata replied: You should wash it off because these are the tears of a person who had disobeyed Allah. And when Dawud, peace be upon him, was brought a half-full vessel he would drink from it until he filled the remaining part of the vessel with his tears.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 182-184

 

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Grey Hair is a Sign of the End

O you whose life excursions have been exhausted in his assiduity, will you not restrain your soul with the leash of contentedness? Do you not know that too much of hard work can cause disability, and eating too many mouthfuls can lead to choking, and too much water can result in drowning? Seclude yourself in the house of solitude, overpower your soul with reproach and address t with an admonishing tongue, saying to it, ‘for how long? Until when?’ Is not it high time that you return to Allah? Woe to you, the thief of grey hair [old age] has stolen the capital of your youth.

O soul, the throne of Bilqis has vanished, the beauty of Shirin has perished, the luxury of Buran has disappeared, and only the worship of Rabia has remained.

The days of your youth are like the season of spring, its hours are like the days of Tashriq, and living them is like celebrating Eid. However, as soon as grey hair makes its appearance, it brings with it the promise of death, and informs you of the paucity of your account, thus causing the tight chain holding together your life to loosen, and the pillars of your strength to crumble.

The weakness of old age has swept away youthfulness, its pick-axe starting to work it way into the skin until the comfort of life has become desolate wasteland, and the meadows of joy to become a desert. Doomed is he who is on a journey that is nearing its end, but has lost the way and has gone astray just when he was about to reach his final destination! Is there a dwelling for you other that the grave after the onset of grey hair?! As if you know where you will settle eventually!

Though old age has put you on the brink of your grave, yet you still seek protection in the fortress of your desires! I really wonder at your wishful hope of living a longer life! How is it that you seek the month of March even though the month of November has not yet passed? You should know that gratification is as flavourful as grape juice but it will put you in a distressed mood. Desire cannot see beyond the immediate; whoever forces that its outcome is in fact burning fire will patiently endure abnegating it.

Do you think a person who fully indulges himself in the pleasures of this wordily life will ever get his fill? Never! Only those who detach themselves from it will feel contentment and sufficiency.

Does the one who keeps delaying and postponing his repentance think that his desires will ever abate? No indeed, for what keeps him from repenting today shall accompany him tomorrow and the day after, it is because with the passage of days it only becomes stronger and more deep-rooted within him. This is evident because, “As the Son of Adam becomes old, two of his qualities grow old with him; his love of wealth and his hope of living longer.” (Reported in Bukhari and Muslim)

The only way to find comfort in this life is by regarding it as a means to an end, not by intimately befriending it. When the pious and judicious realised the flaws and shortcomings of this life, they did not waste another moment of their life in idle play. And so their self-discipline let them to spacious gardens and in the end they settled in the paradise of affability with Allah on the shade of seeking the Hereafter.

O you who prefers the cemetery of sleep over the gardens of the pious, the path of joining ties with your Lord does not entail exhaustion; because exhaustion is only felt by those whose hearts still contain desires. Indeed, the night is not dark for Layla as it is for others.

The deviated one is astray from the right path; fly you instead with the wings of hope and fear, leaving the nest of apathy behind you; stand firmly on the Right Path, work hard and don’t become complacent until you are “firmly established in the favour of a Mighty King.” (al-Qamar 54:55)

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn al-Jawzi pages 178-181

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Reviving the Hearts with Tears

O you whose eyes in this life are tearless, tomorrow on the Day of Judgement the sun will be brought close to your head upon which the mouths of your veins will open so that each hair in your body will cry on its own. The sky will look as if violently dusting off its sleeves because of the maelstrom of cataclysms, the stars shall be scattered apart, and then the horror of The Day arrives to rip apart the fabric of the universe.

The blowing of winds in this life might shake trees, but the blowing of the horn shall shake everything in existence; one blow shall bring forth death, while the next blow shall revive. Let this not surprise you; do you not see this scene reflected in the present life, when the blast of winter cold causes trees to become as if lifeless effigies of themselves followed by the puffs of spring that bring back the spirit of these dormant trees.

The winds of this life either rouse or fertilise; so is the blow of the horn on the Day of Judgment, which rouses the bodies and fertilises the spirits, so that they can come forth to read the book of their deeds. Al-Fudayl was dead in his heart due to his ignorance, Ibn Adham received admonishment by hearing a single reproachful reminder, upon which he left the city of Balakh and headed to the region of Sham. This is because the knot in their hearts was easy to undo because of which their hearts were easily released, whereas your heart is full of convoluted knots!

As the river of admonishment arrives at the gardens of hearts, it meets with the dew of a few of these gardens and their waters mingle together. When the pious used to review their good deeds, they would emphasise that not keeping the oath of disavowing wordily pleasures as tantamount to betrayal. This is why al-Fudayl used to cry constantly; to the extent that he used to weep even during his sleep, which used to wake up his family.

When hearts pierce through the siege of desires into the spacious tracts of contemplation, tears will run as if rapid steed in the wide arenas of longing; as if, “By those [winds] sent forth in gusts.” (al-Mursalat 77:1)

When the stem of the produce of reflection is straight, the wells of tears begin to water the harvest, the exhales of sighs begin to reap, the hand-mills of hope [in Allah] start grinding, and the flames of concern [fearing Allah] ignite, upon which the heart receives its provision of nourishment for the journey of love it is about to embark upon.

Respect the sanctity of promises, for the star of Suhayl does not show up at all times. You have taken life away from your hearts time and again because of your desires, so revive it today with the rainfall of tears. When you leave the assembly of exhortation, do not head back home. Rather rush to the masjid which have been long abandoned, place your foreheads down on the dust and seek the aid of your Lord using the tongues of need. Let the words come out of a heart tormented by regret for wasting a life in vain desires and indolence. Because when the sighing breaths of Yaqub, precipitate due to sorrow, they shall heed not but to the handsomeness of Yusuf, peace be upon them both.

Seeds of Admonishment and Desire by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 175-177

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