Question: How does one understand the spiritual realities of Fiqh and Aqidah when studying traditional books on these topics?
JazakumAllahu khayran for your question.
Spirituality is about grasping the fuller picture of everything around and within us. This deeper understanding only comes from Allah, and He only gives it to those who accept His message and sincerely apply it. It is not a matter of reading books or discussing spiritual concepts.
Learn, Apply and Change
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
“The similitude of the guidance and knowledge with which Allah has sent me is like abundant rain which fell on a land. A fertile part of it absorbed the water and brought forth profuse herbage and pasture.
Other solid ground patches [did not absorb the water] but rather retained the water and thereby Allah benefited people, who drank from it, irrigated their crops and sowed their seeds. Another sandy plane neither retained the water nor produce herbage.
Such is the similitude of the person who becomes well-versed in the religion of Allah and receives benefit from the Message entrusted to me by Allah, so he himself has learned and taught it to others; such is also the similitude of the person who has stubbornly and ignorantly rejected Allah’s Guidance with which I have been sent” (Bukhari and Muslim).
This is how Sacred Knowledge works: some learn it, apply it to the best of their ability for themselves, change, and change others. Others learn, don’t really apply it on themselves, but do manage to benefit some others to some extent. Others don’t care, and neither learn, teach, nor benefit.
Imam al Shafi’i once complained to one of his teachers that he no longer felt the “light”. His teacher told him that he had to repent from his sins because Allah does not give his light to sinful people. The Imam put the lesson into verse:
I complained to Waki of my bad memory
And he told me to leave off sin.
He told me that knowledge is light,
And the light of Allah is not given to sinners.
(You can listen to it sung here: Talib al Habib · Knowledge is Light
So learning and application are the key means to get the deeper meanings. No matter what one reads or how much one memorizes, if one does not actually use the knowledge, then it will have very little effect.
The Right Teacher
The ulema have a saying that you take the way you are from your seniors. That is to say that if they see Sacred Knowledge as merely a novel and exciting exercise in the academic endeavor, then so shall you; if they see it as means to change and draw nearer to Allah, then so shall you. This means that choosing the right teachers is really important.
When Imam Malik’s mother used to send him to his teacher, she would tell him, ‘Go to Rabia, and take on his attitude before you take on his knowledge’ (al Dibaj al Mudhahhab fi Marifat Ayan Ulema al Madhhab, Ibn Farhun). This tells us that learning the bigger picture, or, we could say, spirituality is a priority, and is taken from teachers who have that right mindset.
It is no wonder that Imam Malik’s own student, Ibn Wahb, said the same thing about his teacher. He said, ‘What we have taken from Malik’s attitude [adab] is more than what we have taken of his knowledge’ (Siyar Alam al Nubala, Dhahabi).
This is exactly how it is supposed to be: a student taking objective outward knowledge conjoined with the proper light and attitude from a teacher who in turn received them from his teachers with an unbroken chain back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Whenever a problem occurs in even a small aspect (the soundness of the knowledge, or the proper attitude), the chain is cut and the knowledge is lost.
Knowledge should bequeath the student with humility, and dread and awe of Allah. Masruq said, ‘A person is sufficiently knowledgeable when he has fear and awe of Allah, and the person is sufficiently ignorant when he is proud of how knowledgeable he is’ (Kitab al Ilm, Abu Khaythama).
Being in the company of someone with the true knowledge of the Sacred Law, and the proper attitude towards is not enough: it takes serious effort to take on their religious heritage.
Imam al Shafi’i said:
My brother, you won’t ever attain knowledge except by six things
I’ll tell us how all their details in very clear terms:
Intelligence, keenness, striving and an empty pocket
The company of a master and a long time.
And just as studying and memorizing takes effort and time, so does deep personal change.
In order to learn the spiritual side of the religion, we must learn from scholars who have sound traditional knowledge and the right attitude, and we must strive to apply what they teach us. This application is what gives one a spiritual understanding. As one modern teacher says, ‘This is the textbook, and you are its commentary.’
I pray this helps.
[Ustadh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language