Monday Motivation: Ibn Ata’illah’s Aphorisms on Knowledge, Repentance, and Sincerity

Our respected Human Development Manager and brother, sidi Jamaaludeen Khan, has been sharing Monday Motivation on our online Headquarters for our Seekers Family: teachers, staff, students, and interns.

Jamaaludeen Khan

Salam ‘Alaykum Beloved Interns

I hope you’re all well, Insha Allah.

Shaykh Ibn Ata’illah al-Iskanderi (d. 709/1309) lived in Egypt during the reign of the Mamluks. Originally from Alexandria, he moved to Cairo, where his professional life involved teaching Sacred Law in various institutions, including the Al-Azhar Mosque. He also led a concurrent existence as a Master for his disciples of Islamic spirituality. The Hikam is his principal work, which has attracted universal approval from his time until today.

I have selected three aphorisms from three chapters.

Knowledge

  • Beneficial knowledge is the one whose ray of light expands in the breast and uncovers the veil over the heart.
  • The best knowledge is the one accompanied by fear.
  • If fear unites with knowledge, it is for you; if not, it is against you.

Repentance

How can the heart be illuminated while the forms of creatures are reflected in its mirror? Or how can it journey to God while shackled by its passions? Or how can it desire to enter the presence of God while it has not yet purified itself of the stain of its forgetfulness? Or how can it understand the subtle points of mysteries while it has not yet repented of its offenses?

There is no minor sin when His justice confronts you; there is no major sin when His grace confronts you.

When you sin, let it not be a reason for your despairing of attaining to righteousness before your Lord, for that might be the last [sin] decreed for you.

Sincerity

Actions are lifeless forms, but the presence of an inner reality of sincerity within them is what endows them with life-giving Spirit.

No deed is more fruitful for the heart than the one you are not aware of and which is deemed paltry by you.

Let not obedience make you joyous because it comes from you, but rather, be joyful over it because it comes from God to you. Allah Most High mentions, “Let them rejoice in Allah’s grace and mercy through which this (Book) has come to you. It is better than all the riches that they accumulate” [Quran, 10:58]

Let’s read these gems slowly, reflecting on them deeply. See them as guidance and not mere words.

May Allah bless you all with a beautiful week filled with blessings and goodness, Amin.