07 – The Ethics Of Virtue

TOPIC ONE – UNDERSTANDING ACTIVE SPIRITUALITY

The hallmark of the purification of the lower-self (nafs) is the freedom that the heart (qalb) will enjoy from all material and abstract created things, as well as the heart’s indescribable, ever-increasing joy in nearness to the Divine.  In loving surrender to the Divine is freedom from the vagaries of the slavery to all besides; in loving surrender to the Divine is lasting, permanent happiness beyond the temporary or transient.

Proximity to the Divine produces innate change that reflects in words and deeds.  Indeed, the most essential fruit of true spirituality is a transformation in my internal character, or khuluq.  Without such change, my spiritual transformation is simply a claim, devoid of substance. 

The Messenger (sallallaho ‘alayhi wa sallam) stated: I was only sent to perfect the most beautiful standards of character.  Other texts emphasize that nothing is heavier on the scale of good deeds than virtuous character. Indeed, virtuous character is so seminal in Islam that a well-known spiritual wisdom affirms: All of spirituality is virtuous character; and the one that surpasses you in virtuous character surpasses you in spirituality.

What is character? Character (khuluq) is the internal image or the attributes of my heart (qalb) – what I look like within; my interior form; my inner appearance, whether beautiful or ugly.  As the lower-self is purified, and the heart (qalb) journeys in nearness to the Divine, it begins to value and embody the virtuous qualities beloved to the Divine and reflect those virtues in creation.   

The beauty of the vertical relationship with the Divine – and Allah is exalted above all analogy – is now reflected in the horizontal relationship with creation through the values of loving-mercy, justice, equity, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, patience, wisdom, sacrifice, devotion, service and others.

These values are Islamic universals.  They form the bedrock of our faith and are meant to apply in all times and in all circumstance: personal or political, solitary or social, in geniality or grumpiness, in poverty or poverty. Spirituality is meant to produce character traits (khuluq) that have reached a steady-state of permanent expression.  This requires work and effort.

Through the discipline and purification of the lower-self, virtuous character slowly becomes our natural disposition.  Its expression and actualization become less difficult and deficient, and more perfected and pleasurable.

We are meant to be sincere and truthful in the expression of our values.   There should be no dichotomy between our private and public lives. What good is an activist that promotes global welfare and equity but renders injustice to his or her parents, spouse or children? What good is an activist that promotes values in public but is the last to practice them in private?  What good is an activist that encourages sacrifice and humility but is burning aflame with the desire to seek name and fame?

The quest for virtuous character in whatever we do is a public activism in and of itself.  Our hypocrisies, and the dissonance between our values on the one hand, and our words and deeds on the other, will not enjoy the pleasure and solicitude of the Divine and such efforts will be – surely and certainly – barren, arid and impoverished.


There is no inherent disconnect or contradiction between Islamic Spirituality and social or political activism.  In fact, Islamic spirituality is not only relevant but essential to all forms of activism.  This podcast with Shaykh Riad Saloojee will present a paradigm for a spiritually-inspired activism where activism achieves what it was always meant to be: a vehicle for nearness to the Divine through genuine individual and social ethical change.  

This series will comprise of seven discussions that will explore 1. The foundations of Islamic spirituality; 2. The spiritual ethos that is the basis of all activism; 3. The ailments of activism unhinged from spirituality; 4. The laws that govern activism; 5. The importance of “inner,” spiritual activism for beneficial “outer” activism; 6. Vignettes from Prophetic activism; and 7. An application of how spirituality must inform true environmental activism.

 

For more podcasts by SeekersGuidance, visit SeekersGuidance.org/podcasts.