Imam al-Ghazali on Guarding the Tongue

Shaykh Walead Mosaad presents Imam al-Ghazali’s thoughts on guarding the tongue to protect the heart from nonsense and make room for dhikr of Allah.

Imam al-Ghazali puts a particular emphasis on the importance of guarding one’s tongue and that the tongue is indeed like a double-edged sword. It can do much good but it can also do much harm. There are two major things we need to know about what we say.

    1. 1. What we say is significant, it’s not insignificant.


    2. It has an effect.

It affects other people who are in earshot of it. It can affect people who may not even be in earshot of it, by hearsay. Someone might say, “Well, I heard NN say this and this about you.” And if you actually said that or you disseminated that, then it does have the potential to do a lot of damage.

Speech Is Not Just Verbal

While the pre-modern books such as the Ihya are talking about things we actually say, that we pronounce [verbally], obviously, that extends to any which way we may communicate. That includes not just what we say, but what we write, what we tweet, what we disseminate. Even what we retweet. What we propagate. We may not have said it, we may not have originated it, but if we contribute to its dissemination, then we have a role in whatever they said or what is retweeted in affecting other people. It’s significant.

How often have people’s reputations been completely maligned, if not destroyed, based upon something that happened on the social media, or something along the lines of the Internet? This is particularly important because as some of our ulama have stated, there’s this type of call you out, gotcha, culture that we have going on. Many people assume that somehow that’s supported by our Islamic principles. That if someone makes a grievous error, then we need to name and shame.

If they’re caught on camera doing something or saying something or maligning someone or even saying something that’s racist or abusive to other people, and we catch them on camera, then there’s this automatic assumption: name and shame. Let’s make these people famous. Let’s put them out on the Internet. Let’s get their photo everywhere, so everybody knows who they are.

When I see stuff like that, my next question is, and then what? Now we know who they are. Now what? Are we supposed to completely erase them from humanity, because they said something under their breath, even if it was to one of our Muslim sisters that was offensive? Does that fit the offense? Can they be completely maligned and destroyed, and lose their job, and publicly humiliated?

It’s a very powerful tool, especially now when we have access to these tools that – depending on how many followers someone may have or other people may have – within a matter of minutes something can exponentially be spread to all parts of the globe. That power, and it is powerful, wasn’t there ten years ago, let alone 20 and 30 and 40 and and 50 years ago.

The Book and the Wisdom

I think it behooves us to be even even more careful. To heed the words of our Imams, of our ulama, like Imam al-Ghazali and others, who pondered these issues and studied the Qur’an and Sunna very closely. They arrived at this articulation of the hikma, the wisdom. And the Qur’an refers to the Sunna itself as hikma, as wisdom. Everything about our Sunna is wise. Everything about what the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, did – the way he acted, his mannerisms, the way he treated people. There was a wisdom about it. Nothing was done in vain. Nothing was haphazard.

One of the Sahaba asked him, “Are we taken to task by what we say?” You read the hadith and it is as if he’s surprised. Is that like a big deal? The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, replies back very emphatically: “Are people not dragged on their noses [or on their faces] to Hellfire as a result of what their tongues harvest?” In other words, it does have an effect. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, talked about the night of ascension where he saw some of the types of punishment people go through. Among them were the people who backbite, who slander. They will have punishments that reflect what they did in the dunya.

Think of the dunya the life that we live now. It’s representative of something that is more figurative and metaphoric. When we get to the Akhira, those things that are metaphoric will now be literal. The one who slanders will, literally, be carrying the weight of his tongue. It will become huge and he’ll have to carry it on his back like a satchel or a burdensome thing. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened in the dunya.

Speak Only of What Concerns You

Sura al-Hujurat 49:12 gives us a very physical description of the person who backbites. “Would you like to eat the dead flesh of your brother?” One of the hadith mentions that there were two women who were fasting and they started backbiting people and they became very ill. Then they regurgitated, they threw up, and the hadith says that meat and bones and blood came out. And the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “These two were backbiting.” It became literalized within them, because that’s how ugly it is in the eyes Allah, Exalted and Most High.

Imam al-Ghazali goes in an order of least worst to the worst. From the one that is it’s bad but not really bad to the last thing he talks about; the one that’s really bad. He says, “The first one is to speak about those things that do not concern you.” We know the hadith. “From the good Islam, the good din, of the person – the woman or the man – is to leave that which does not concern one.”

The question will be, “What is it that concerns me then?” Well, the Sunna makes tafsir of the Qur’an, and the Qur’an makes tafsir of the Sunna. So when the verse says, “There is no good in their private conversations (najwa),” talking about the Quraysh, “except for three things: to enjoin to charity or something that is good or to rectify between two people or two parties; ” (Sura al-Nisa 4:114) This is good speech. These are examples of things that would concern us. It means that pretty much everything else is going to fall at least in the category of not concerning us.

Giving Yourself a Break

Obviously, there is the other concept also. What we call istijmam (recreation), which is like tarwih (relief). You do need to go to less serious times in order to have aid and help for your more serious times. We are human beings. We can’t be very on 24/7. We’re not angels in that regard.

Some of the Sahaba complained to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. They said, and I paraphrase, “You know, when we’re with you we find that we are on, but when we go back to our families and our homes and so forth it’s not the same thing. Is this a sign of nifaq (hypocrisy)?” – Even Umar ibn al-Khattab and Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, Allah be pleased with them, were part of this conversation. – The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “No. If you were to do that, then, the Angels would have greeted you in the streets as you walk, but some time for this and some time for that.”

So there is a halal type of taking a break, istijmam, and things like this. But we have to be careful that that thing of itself doesn’t lead us to falling into something that would be blameworthy, something that would be either makruh, disliked, reprehensible, or haram. People want to take a break and watch a little bit of the game, and enjoy the athleticism of the athletes. I’m not going to say that’s wrong. Athleticism and paying attention to one’s physical prowess and things like this, that is part of the din. We can’t deny that. If you’re not healthy physically, it’s going to be very difficult for you to be healthy spiritually. They go hand in hand.

At the same time we should recognize that it’s very easy to fall into a cycle where these things dominate our thoughts and our attention and our time. It’s about indibat. It’s about trying to do it in a way so that we’re not falling into a place where we lose sight of what’s important.

Excessive Speech

So fudul al-kalam, it’s about leaving that which is doesn’t concern one. It’s better to err on the side of caution. The Sahaba used to count the number of words they would say in the day. I’ll bring up social media again because social media makes you feel like whatever you have to say is important. It also makes you feel like “I need to have an opinion about this thing.” If you see other people putting their opinions, “Well, I have more followers than them I should have an opinion too. I should be getting those likes and comments as well, because I have to say when I need to say and so forth.

We have to be very, very careful with that impulse and recognize it as a nafsani impulse. It’s an impulse of the nafs. It’s an impulse of the ego. It’s not something that the din is going to exhort you to. The din will tell you that you have good counsel for the people, no matter where it comes from. It doesn’t have to be you, and actually, preferably, it shouldn’t be you. I prefer it not to be me. I prefer that it be someone else who can do a better job than I can.

Imam al-Ghazali is strict in that sense. He’ll say, “Where you went on your trip and who you saw and what you did and how much you pay for the onions at the market are all things that are in the category of not that important.” Obviously, he’s addressing people who are not from the awwam. He’s addressing people who have made a commitment to living a life dedicated to the prophetic principles and ideals.

If that’s what you want to do, then what it’s saying is, if you’re going to go that route, then go all in. Do it the right way. Don’t just focus on the ritual aspects of the din: the number of prayers and number of days that you fast and things like this, and then neglect what really is the important underpinning of the whole thing altogether, which is to avoid those things that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, avoided. Avoid the haram and embody the character of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.

What Distinguishes the Awliya

How many of the people who can boast of their ritual prayers, how many prayers they’ve done, how many days they’ve fasted, how much money they give to sadaqa. Then this comes emblematic of the din. It’s an aspect of the din, even pillars of the din, but it doesn’t mean that that’s the measure of where one is with one’s relationship with Allah Most High. Especially if you want to have a committed, dedicated, principled way about living your life. These are the things one has to be aware of. These are the things that separate the people who are true awliya and then those who just make claims.

Another thing is talk that is a trivial or repetitive of something that’s not important. Sometimes people just speak so that they can bring people’s attention to themselves. They’re looking for people’s attention. This is called fudul al-kalam. Remember these are in increasing order, so these are the two least bad ones. As we go to the three, four, five, six, all 20 of them, they get worse and worse.

The third one is to talk about things that are actually haram to be doing. Haram to do, but then you go speak about them. You talk about some illicit type of gathering that took place. “I couldn’t believe I saw that roulette wheel on TV, and look at how much money that guy made from a slot machine, and wow, that’s interesting. Look at that drunk person and how much of a fool he made out of himself,” and things like this.

That’s talking even in a condemning way. To talk about it in a praiseworthy way is even worse. I would also include in this, the mushahadat, the things that we see, that we look at, that also depict things that are haram. They should also be avoided. There’s a general principle: “Everything that is not permissible to speak about, it’s also not permissible to look at or to engage with. The images that enter us, we think that are innocuous and don’t have a long-term effect, they do have an effect. They stay with you. Especially images, pictures, or video, because any type of simple reminder will have you recollect them, as long as they’re imprinted on your heart.

Free Up Your Memory

Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari says, “How are you going to reach a greater understanding of the divine, Allah Most High, and the pictures of the forms are imprinted on your heart?” They occupy your thoughts. Your subconscious works continuously and your subconscious can work for you or against you. You may not be actively watching that last movie or listening to that last pop song or rock song but your subconscious may be busy with it. And when your subconscious is busy with it that means it’s not busy with other things.

One of the things about creative people is that even when they’re not actively doing something creative their subconscious is helping them do that creative thing. That’s why ideas come to them sort of spontaneously, but they’re not really that spontaneous, because in the background you were working on it to begin with. If we’re going to use an example of software: you have an app running in the background. Your subconscious is kind of like that app. It’s running in the background. If you have too many other apps open that are nonsense, then they’re taking up all of your computer power, your RAM, your memory, and as a result the thing that’s in active mode doesn’t run that well.

The app that you’re on right now which is you as well as the things that you’re doing. I would venture to say that this is one of the the secrets of dhikr, of the remembrance of Allah Most High. It is one of the reasons why the ulama say that it’s better to do dhikr and with no hudur, no presence of mind, than to avoid dhikr. It’s obviously better to have dhikr and have hudur or presence of mind and heart, but that doesn’t preclude you from doing dhikr even without that, because that has a benefit as well.

Even when only the tongue is working it’s at least getting you on a spiritual level, so that even when you’re not doing the dhikr actively with your tasbih or reading the Qur’an, it begins to get imprinted upon the conscious of your spirit. Then it’s working for you even when you’re not actively doing it. And the adverse is true. When you’re working with nonsense things, those things are also working against you even when you are not actively doing them.

Increasing Presence with Allah

That’s why when people ask, “How do I have more presence of mind and heart in the prayer? I just get in the prayer and I’m just busy and I can’t focus and I can’t concentrate.” The problem is not your prayer, the problem is what you’re doing outside of the prayer. When you begin to have hudur or presence outside of the prayer, then you have presence inside of the prayer, because they feed off one another.

That is why in the hadith of Bukhari, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, mentioned that “If the prayer time is upon us and the food is ready at the same time, then begin with the food.” Why begin with the food? Because that is what’s keeping you busy. You’ll be not focused in your prayer. So when you go into the prayer and you’re not focused on the food, you’ve at least removed the busyness and the lack of focus at least with the food.

During Ramadan for example ,also a hadith of Bukhari, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, would single out a particular space in the Rawda, in his masjid, and pray in that space consistently, because it helps one focus better. All the things that would lend us to focus more not just in the prayer but outside of the prayer, if it leads us to a greater focus, then that thing becomes meritorious in and of itself.

Imam Malik is reported to have said, “If I knew that sitting on a pile of trash would bring my heart closer to Allah, then I would do it.” Because the point is to bring you closer to Allah Most High. That’s the whole idea. Sometimes a sin brings you closer to Allah. Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari said, “Perhaps a sin that breeds within you, that engenders within you humility and a sense of poverty towards Allah Most High, a sense of a need of Allah Most High, is better than obedient acts that breed within you arrogance and haughtiness.” If it makes you arrogant and it makes you feel like you’re better than everybody else, and that you have a degree over others. If that’s what your ‘ibada is doing for you, it’s having the opposite effect.

Humility Is the Child of Dhikr

The effect it should have is to make you more humble, to make you more agreeable with people. Not more difficult with people. More agreeable, more humble, easier to get along with. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “The closest people to me on the day of judgment will be the ones who are best in character,” the ones who get along with people very easily and people get along very easily with them “and they lower their wing for people.” He always had a smiling face. He always greeted people with a smiling face. He had that quality about him, Allah bless him and give him peace.

So, aimless disputatious and arguing about things that may in and of themselves be haram to argue about and discuss. These would be discussion many people have about political realities or political situations and things like this, and then people have heated arguments. It happens in Ramadan so much too, because our routines are upended a little bit and we see each other more often and so there’s more of a opportunity for people to start talking about things like that. That has a you know a damaging effect on the heart. You come away with conversations like that and you feel constricted.

Obviously, it takes two people to to engage in it. What do you do when somebody is talking about things like that? How do you disengage? Either you try to change the topic or you could say, “You know what? I rather talk about something else.” Sometimes you just have to walk away, but exhaust the other possibilities first. Do it in a nice way, but if that doesn’t work … at the end of the day we’re all responsible for ourselves.


Day 4: Audit Yourself-30 Deeds 30 Days

Day 4: Audit Yourself

It is attributed to Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “Take yourself to account before you are taken to account.” We all know that we will be asked about every single thing we did. We all do things we are ashamed of, and sometimes the problem is that we don’t even notice them.

This Ramadan, try taking out some time to audit yourself. Find a quiet corner and sit down with a piece of paper. Think about what you did today. Where did you go? What did you look at? What things did you say? When you record good things, say Alhamdulillah, because we have been promised, “If you thank Me, I will increase you.” When you notice your faults, ask for forgiveness.

You’ll notice that you’ll wake up the next day with a mindful intentionality, that will help you get over your bad habits.

Bring new life to this Ramadan by enrolling in a FREE On-Demand course.

Anse Tamara Grey on Nisf Sha‘ban: For Women, by Women

In this podcast, Shaykha Anse Tamara Grey of Rabata, speaks about Nisf Shaban; the fifteenth day of the Islamic month of Sha‘ban. Her talk is particularly catered to women.

Since there is much confusion about what has been narrated about Nisf Sha‘ban, she begins by reciting the various hadiths that clarify our understanding about it. From the hadith of our lady Aisha, Allah be pleased with her, when she asked the Prophet why he offered extra worship, to the scholar Imam al Subki, who concluded that this night atones for the sins committed during the year, she brings many references and proofs.

All who seek are forgiven this night, except a few people, including those who are arrogant, have hate in their heart, or are not good to their parents.

How to Free Ourselves

Shaykha Anse empowers us by taking us through the description of the people who are not forgiven on this night. The first two are fairly unusual;  those who are nonbelievers, or who addicted to alcohol (and perhaps the longing for this night will be a means for addicts to break the habit).

The rest, however, are shockingly common. Let’s look at the descriptions, and ask ourselves some questions:

The ones who incite rancor. Are we bringing people together, or are we causing problems?

The one who severs kinship bonds. Are we cutting our relatives off, or are we reaching out to them? It is important to remember that it is possible to keep a form of connection, while maintaining appropriate boundaries.

The one who drags their clothing (meaning people who looks at others with arrogance based on class or material). We can make an effort to wear simpler clothing, that doesn’t show the shape of our bodies.

The one who has hurt their parents. When your parents think of you, are they frustrated, or are they happy?Nisf Shaban

In addition, Shaykha Tamara offers some practical advice about how to make this night special for yourself and your family.

With thanks to Rabata, our content partner.

Resources for Seekers

How Spiritual Transformation Is Achieved, by Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

The Companions were humans like us…but their ranks were raised by virtue of their spiritual transformation. Some of them used to commit terrible crimes, but they were forgiven. Hearts hard as rocks became soft and full of mercy. What was the cause of this amazing transformation? Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said sheds some light.

The presence of the Prophet ﷺ and his teachings changed them from the inside out.

One of these blessed companions was in the market when he realized that he had been robbed. Upon that discovery, he raised his hands in prayer. The people around him decided that the thief was finished, as no one could come to any good if this companion, who was so close to the Prophet, prayed against him.

But he didn’t. Shaykh Faid Muhammad Said tells us what he did pray for…and why.

Inspired by this story? Try one of SeekersHub’s FREE online courses, such as The Sunna of Speech: Prohibitions of the Tongue, taught by Shaykh Rami Nsour.

Resources for Seekers

Forget Others, Begin Purifying Yourself First – Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said encourages us to question ourselves at each point of speaking, doing and engagement with others: what do I want by saying this, what do I want from doing this and what do I want from this relationship.

Consider this, in the context of the Quranic verse, “Indeed, I want nothing but good and goodness.”

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Can I Say ‘Amin’ When Reading the Qur’an Outside Surah Al Fatiha? How To Purify One’s Heart?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalamualaikum,

(1) Is saying Amin when reciting Qur’an outside Surah Al-Fatiha permissible?

(2) How do you know if you are doing things for Allah and not to show off? Sometimes I find myself not doing a good deed when there are people around me because I am scared that I’m not doing it for Allah.

(3) How can we have a clean heart? How do you know when you have a corrupt heart?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

(1) Yes, it is from the sunna to supplicate for the virtues and blessings mentioned in the Qur’an.

(2) Not doing things for the sake of people, too, can be considered a form of showing off. In general, voluntary acts should be done in private and obligatory acts in public. However, ask Allah for a high intention, facilitation and acceptance.

(3) I’d advise taking the classes on Spirituality at SeekersHub. Please see: Spirituality Deparment

And Allah alone gives success.


Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What is Islamic Spirituality? A Reader

“Success is really attained by him
who purifies it”
[Qur’an, 91.9]

What is Sufism? (tasawwuf)
False Spirituality – from Reliance of the Traveller
What Are the Conditions for a True Spiritual Guide?
How is spiritual excellence attained?
Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir
A Reader on Sincerity, Intention, and the Purpose of Spiritual Routines
What is Sufism? A Classical Introduction to Islamic Spirituality – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

A practical introduction by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani of SeekersGuidance to sufism (tasawwuf), Islamic spirituality (tasawwuf/sufism), from an introductory classical text on faith, worship, and spirituality by Imam Abu Bakr al-Mulla of Ahsa’ (Saudi Arabia), Ithaf al-Talib.
Video: Habib ‘Umar b. Hafiz: The Spiritual Imperative – Ribat Institute
An insightful lecture delivered by one of the true carriers of prophetic spirituality in our times, al-Habib Umar b. Hafiz. The lecture addresses the importance of spirituality, and the emphasis of cleansing the heart. The lecturer engages the audience by enumerating many heart-touching narratives.
Videos: Ustadh Yahya Rhodus on Disciplining the Soul
A lecture series based on two sections in the third quarter of Imam al-Ghazali’s Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya’ Ulum al-Din). This course will delve into the foundational principles of disciplining one’s soul, offering a theoretical framework of how this is achieved. Brought to you by Zaytuna College.
Shaykh Yahya Rhodus is also a teacher with Seekers Guidance teaching courses on the works of Imam al-Ghazali on spirituality.

Related Courses
Principles of Islamic Spirituality
Seeking Allah: Imam Muhasibi’s Treatise of the Seekers of Guidance Explained
Purification of the Heart & Praiseworthy Character (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion)
Further Reading
Sea Without Shore: A Manual of the Sufi Path – Shaykh Nuh Keller – Now Available – SunnaBooks
Imam al-Haddad’s Advice to the Spiritual Wayfarer – Muwasala
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s Commentary on the Hadith of Gibril
On Reflection (fikr) – Imam al-Haddad (Book of Assistance)

The War Within Our Hearts – Imam Zaid Shakir

For original article: Click here
Verily, they were youth who believed in their Lord and we increased them in guidance. And we strengthened their hearts when they took a stand, saying: “Our Lord is the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth; we will never call on any God besides Him. Were we to do so we would have uttered a grave enormity”. (Qur’an 18:13-14)
zaidshakir1[Disconnected from God]
One of the disheartening features of our modern, or for some our postmodern condition, is that it encourages us to live lives of isolation, oftentimes divorced from even the crowds that might surround us in our bustling cities. We have friends and acquaintances, but many times these relationships do little more than disguise our fundamental state of alienation. One of the disastrous consequences of our state is that sometimes we become isolated from even our true selves and from our Lord. This condition of alienation from Allah is reinforced and encouraged by many of the messages that permeate our environment. Those messages are conveyed via television, movies, popular music, literature, and many other means.
Many of the techniques currently used to convey those messages were unknown to many Muslim parents who have migrated to the West from towns or villages in the Muslim world; places that lacked in some instances electricity, not to mention televisions, iPods, the internet, and related media. For those Muslim parents who converted to Islam here in the West, those techniques, some of which are designed —by way of example— to create lifelong brand identification in six-month-old babies, were in rudimentary and simplistic stages of development during their youth. Now, they are fully perfected and along with other forces that currently influence and help to shape the psychic and spiritual environment we are developing in, they create an atmosphere that challenges a believer in ways that are unprecedented in human history.
Through various forms of print and electronic media we are encouraged to consume things we do not need, a lifestyle that threatens our planet and erodes our humanity. We are encouraged to fornicate and to abandon the values, mores, customs and conventions that have supported family life since the advent of humans on this planet. We are encouraged to use drugs, drink alcohol, and to become gluttons by consuming ever expanding quantities of food “products.” We are encouraged to interact with the opposite gender in ways that are debasing and potentially destructive. How can a young Muslim negotiate such rough terrain? Answers to this question have been scarce, especially answers that resonate with our youth. Now, Habib Quadri, a youth organizer, experienced teacher, and perhaps more importantly, someone who has walked down the challenging, obstacle-strewn roads many of our youth are currently traveling, provides a meaningful answer. That answer lies in this book, The War Within Our Hearts, an insightful volume that takes on many of the issues confronting Muslim youth here in the West, sometimes with humor, oftentimes with brutal frankness, but always with sound knowledge and great clarity.
imam z[What is the War Within Our Hearts?]
The War Within Our Hearts focuses the attention of the reader on the real battleground where the war for the soul of our youth is being waged, the hearts. If we are looking for the source of the problems currently vexing Muslims, young and old alike, there could not be a better starting place, for our Prophet, peace upon him, has reminded us: “Surely, in the body there is an organ, if it is sound the entire body is sound and if it is corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Verily, it is the heart.
It has been said that the enemies that are waging a relentless war against our hearts are four: the ego, Satan, our whimsical desires, and the world itself. The most dangerous of these enemies is the ego. The soul in its unrefined, unconstrained, immature state is the ego. That it is the more dangerous than even Satan is illustrated by the fact that during Ramadan, Satan and his dupes are chained up. The Prophet, peace upon him, mentioned, “When Ramadan arrives the gates of Paradise are flung open, the gates of Hell are slammed shut, and the Satans are shackled.”  However, there are people who engage in the most egregious sins during Ramadan. How could this be when Satan and his dupes are shackled? We are taught that those sins emanate from the ego.
We mentioned that one of the characteristics of the ego is its spiritual immaturity. Its maturation takes place over time. This fact is illustrated by the story of Joseph in the Qur’an. When the soul of the wife of the Aziz of Egypt, Zulaikha, was immature and unrefined, she was a prisoner of her passions and impulses. As a result, she could not see the blame that she bore for her attempt to seduce Joseph. To prove her lack of guilt she gathered the women of her circle and had Joseph enter the room. When they lost control of themselves in his presence, she used that as an affirmation of her innocence. However, as the years passed and her soul matured, she was able to free herself from her passions, to see her guilt as well as the negative impact her actions had in the events leading to the wrongful incarceration of Joseph. She declared: I do not absolve myself of any blame. Surely, the ego commands what is vile, except for those my Lord has mercy on. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. (Qur’an 12:53)
This verse emphasizes something of tremendous relevance for our youth. Specifically, the ego naturally inclines towards vileness. Hence, without a conscious effort to restrain it and to nurture it toward maturity, it will naturally draw a person toward the vileness and vulgarity that is intricately intertwined with contemporary youth culture: the alcohol, drugs, violence, abusive language, misogynistic attitudes, pornography, crass music, sloppy dress, rejection of parental authority, and other vices that stand in clear contradistinction to sound Islamic principles and teachings. The immaturity of the soul is one of the main reasons many of the things mentioned here are particularly attractive to young people nowadays. These are some of the very issues that Habib Quadri deals with in this enlightening volume.
As for Satan, his enmity towards the human being is clear. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, Verily, Satan is an enemy unto you, take him as an enemy.  (Qur’an 35:6) For his part Satan mentions, Because you have waylaid me, I will lie in ambush of them on your straight path. I will assault them from their front, their rear, their right and their left. And you will not find most of them thankful. (Qur’an 7:16-17)  It is said that the assault of Satan from these various vantage points means that he will assail us in our worldly affair, our religious life, and cause us to doubt about the veracity of the Hereafter. We often forget that Satan has declared war on us and is waging that war on many fronts. We live our lives as if his assault is fictitious or harmless. If we are to survive his attack we have to be constantly on guard against his guiles and conspiracies.
[How do you win the War?]
In that Satan is at war with us, we must fight back. Allah encourages us in the Qur’an, Therefore, fight you altogether the dupes of Satan. Surely the scheme of Satan is weak. (Qur’an 4:76)  By implementing this order, we do not sit back and allow Satan to bring the battle to us. If we do so we will inevitably be overwhelmed. We have to go on the offensive. We go on the offensive against Satan by staying constantly in a state of purity, by means of Wudu and Ghusl. We stay on the offensive with the frequent remembrance of Allah. We stay on the offensive by regularly reciting the Book of Allah. We also fight Satan and his dupes by avoiding the arrogant and self-centered attitude that led to his demise.
Satan’s arrogance was instrumental in his being prevented from entrance into Paradise. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, And when We said to the Angels bow down before Adam, they did so, except Iblis, he refused, arrogated himself, and was among those who reject faith.  (Qur’an 2: 34) As for those who will inhabit the heavenly home, Allah describes them in the following terms, This is the Home of the Hereafter that We have made for those who do not desire to exalt themselves on Earth, nor to work corruption therein; and the [good] end will be for the God-conscious. (Qur’an 28:83) Satan fell from Allah’s grace owing to his arrogance. Many believers will be saved due to their humility. Each and every one of us has to choose which of these two paths we will follow: the path of arrogance or the path of humility.
Controlling one’s whimsical desires is also instrumental in holding on to one’s religion and successfully living a life of faith. Falling victim to our whims is very similar to how some of us succumb to the whisper of Satan, for it is during our moments of heedlessness that we become susceptible to both. However, resisting our soul’s whimsical desires is not an easy matter. In addition to mental and spiritual alertness, we have to consciously struggle against those whims. Allah says in the Qur’an, As for one fears when he will stand before his Lord, and denies his soul its whimsical desires, surely Paradise will be his refuge. (Qur’an 79: 40-41)
This is the “jihad” that Habib Quadri is alluding to in the pages of this book. That is to say the “jihad” to control of tongue, the “jihad” to turn away from the pornographic pictures and the lewd, indecent lyrics. Waging this “jihad” is to resist the temptation to attend the wild parties, or to dress in a manner totally unbecoming a Muslim. The practical solutions Habib Quadri offers to these and many other issues currently vexing our youth are tactical steps in the “Greater Jihad.” Allah mentions in the Qur’an, As for those struggling for Our Sake, we will guide them to our Paths. Indeed, Allah is with those possessing inner excellence. (Qur’an 29: 69) Those paths are the paths leading to Allah. They are only accessible to those who struggle for His sake. Habib Quadri has rendered our youth an immeasurable service by delineating for them very practical and easily performed steps to guide that struggle.
[The greatest enemy]
detatchFinally, the world itself is a great enemy of the human being. However, this is not necessarily so, for the world can also be a source of great benefit. Whether the world is an enemy or a source of benefit lies in how a person approaches it. If one approaches it with caution and the understanding that is has many potential pitfalls, then one can negotiate past its hazards and traps. The Prophet mentioned, peace upon him, “The world is a source of beneficial enjoyment, and the most beneficial thing in it is a righteous spouse.”  This hadith presents us with a clear message concerning the potential benefit of the world. However, the Messenger of Allah, peace upon him, also said, “The world is sweet, green [and lush].”  This seemingly innocuous statement is a warning against the seductive temptation of the world. It can definitely benefit us, but it can also seduce us.
Its seductiveness lies in its ability to blind us and lead us to believe that its delights are unsurpassed and that they endure. When a person has been seduced by the world he comes to believe that there is nothing nicer and more pleasurable. He believes that he is in a paradise, and he believes that the delights of the world are permanent. The believer knows better. The Prophet, peace upon him, described this state of delusion in a few brief words when he mentioned, “The world is paradise for the disbeliever and prison for the believer.”  This is a powerful statement concerning the nature of the world. The disbeliever is deluded into believing there is nothing more pleasurable than this world, and his entire life devolves in a reckless, hedonistic endeavor. As for the believer, he lives like a prisoner, realizing that like an incarcerated person, he cannot do what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. However, like a prisoner he looks for opportunities to do things that will benefit him when he returns home.
A thoughtful prisoner will take advantage of the educational and vocational opportunities that are available for him. He will take advantage of the free time to read abundantly, expanding his mind and raising his consciousness, as was the case of Malcolm X and countless others. He will also hit the weights and work himself into tip-top shape. Hence, the Prophet, peace upon him, has presented an amazing parable for the world. In it the believer is constrained by the rules put in place by the warden. However, he takes full advantage of the opportunities he has, even in such a harsh and dangerous environment, of those things that will benefit him when he goes before the parole board and when he finally returns home.
With this invaluable book, Habib Quadri has reminded our youth of these realities. He has shown us many of the weapons that the ego, Satan, our whimsical desires, and the world use in their war against our hearts, and he has given tremendous insight into the means of defense that we have at our disposal to resist the combined assault of those forces. He does this in a readable and accessible fashion that will not repulse those youth that have been pushed away from religion by the strict formalism and rigid thinking of scholars and teachers who, through no fault of their own, are simply unfamiliar with the mentality of Western Muslim youths and the severity of the challenges that they face just to be Muslims. Hence, when he reminds us of the war that is being waged on the battleground of our hearts, he does not cause us to despair. Rather, he encourages us by letting us know that this is a winnable war. Armed with that knowledge, let us all enter into the fray and begin fighting back.
Bukhari, 52; Muslim, 1599.
Bukhari, 1898, 1899; Muslim, 1079.
The wording in this verse should not lead us to believe that Iblis (Satan) was an Angel. He was present with the Angels when this command was issued and was thus included among those being addressed. As for his essential nature, he is one of the Jinn, normally invisible creatures who Allah has created from fire. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, concerning Satan, And when We said to the Angels, bow down before Adam, they bowed down except Iblis. He was among the Jinn and he refused the command of his Lord. Will you take him and his progeny as protecting friends, while they are an enemy unto you. What a foul exchange the oppressors make!  (Qur’an 18: )
Muslim, 1467.
Muslim, 2742.
Muslim, 2957.
Buy the book here.
Free Islamic Courses at SeekersGuidance:
The Marvels of the Heart
Purification of the Heart & Praiseworthy Character (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion)
Principles of Islamic Spirituality
Relevant Resources:


On Knowing Yourself to Know God – A SeekersCircle Reflection

by Ustadha Leila Adam 
Imam al Ghazzali, may Allah have mercy on him, said: Know that the key to knowing God is to know your own self.
Therefore, says Imam al Ghazzali in “The Alchemy of Happiness”, you must seek out the truth about yourself: What sort of thing are you? Where did you come from? Where are you going? What is the purpose of your creation? What is happiness and where does it lie? What is misery and where does it lie?
The Four Natural Drivers
In the journey of self discovery, it is useful to find out some aspects of what to look for. For example, our nature will have one or more of the following four attributes as a major driving force in it:

  1. Bestial (pig-like)
  2. Predatory (dog-like)
  3. Demonic
  4. Angelic/Lordly

A bestial nature will be preoccupied with satisfying the urges of sleeping, eating and copulating, and generally be driven by bodily pleasures. It uses the faculty of appetite to get what it wants.
A predatory nature will be dedicated to freedom of the self to think and do as it pleases. It uses the faculty of anger to get what it wants.
A demonic nature will derive pleasure from deception, treachery, slandering and corruption of truth. It uses the ego to get what it wants.
An angelic or lordly nature enjoys peace and contemplation, and has a sense of yearning for higher states. It uses knowledge to get what it wants.
The bestial quality is good for caring for and strengthening the body so that it is able to do good works, but it must be kept under careful check.
The predatory quality is good for self defence when attacked, but it must not be allowed to drive us to do injustice. The demonic quality will drive a person to think negatively about everything and everyone, valuing only their own self.
The angelic quality is that little voice in the head that suggests doing a valuable act, but one should also beware of the lordly tendency to be too clever and take advantage of others.
The Four Virtues
A person who has allowed their bestial qualities to dominate will be overtaken by greed, gluttony and passions. They will always be chasing their desires. A person who has their bestial qualities in good check will be contented, chaste; and moderate and balanced in behaviour and life habits. This can be termed ‘Temperance’.
A person who has allowed their predatory qualities to dominate will be overtaken by enmity, detesting, slandering and cursing others. They will always be arguing and getting angry at people who disagree with them. A person who has their predatory qualities in good check will be courageous, generous, chivalrous and patient with others. This can be termed ‘Courage’.
A person who has allowed their demonic qualities to dominate will be self-centred, and have a sense of superiority and arrogance over others. They will dislike others and look down on them. A person who has their demonic qualities in good check will be charitable and compassionate, having sincere concern for others. This can be termed ‘Justice’.
A person who has allowed their lordly qualities to dominate will be clever and might use cunning and guile to get what they want. A person who has their lordly qualities in good check will have insight and discernment, and a sense of certainty of what is good and right. This can be termed ‘Wisdom’.
From this understanding come The Four Virtues: Courage, Temperance, Wisdom and Justice. These are four virtues we should try to cultivate in ourselves.
The Heart is Our Kingdom
The heart is the kingdom of the person. We have to protect this kingdom from the ‘vandals’ that will capture and harm it. The heart was created for the Hereafter and its happiness is in knowing God. We get to know God through His Signs (His words and creation). The heart feels joy when it sees the wonder of what God does.
The heart ‘hunts’ for this knowledge of God through the 5 outward senses and the 5 inward mind processes. The body is the vehicle of the heart. It is the only way that the heart can access what it needs. The 5 outward senses are of course: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. The 5 inward mind processes are: visualising (seeing something in the mind’s eye), cognitive thought and understanding, memory (remembering), recollecting and reusing (dhikr), and reflecting and pondering (tafakkur).
These 10 faculties can be thought of as the ‘armies of the heart’, and should be under its command. If the heart is overtaken with desires, passions or egotism, the armies will be misused. If a person doesn’t strive to develop the Four Virtues, the heart will get ‘captured and imprisoned’ by the base natures. It then has to ‘bow to the idols’ of dogs, pigs or demons.
Diseases of the Heart
If we let our behaviour go unchecked, the cumulative result of repeatedly following our desires, emotions or egos will be the development of diseases in the spiritual heart. Just as the body will get diseases if we don’t eat properly or sleep well or exercise regularly, so the heart will suffer if our behaviour isn’t controlled. 
A person who submits to the bestial urges of appetite will manifest diseases of greed, shamelessness, foul behaviour, flattery, envy, rejoicing in other people’s misfortunes, and miserliness.
A person who submits to the predatory urges of anger and emotion will manifest diseases of hastiness, impulsiveness, impurity, lawlessness, loudness, boasting and flaunting themselves. They will also be scornful and attacking of others.
A person who submits to the demonic urges of negativity and arrogance will manifest diseases of treachery, deception, fraud, meanness and spoiling of the good, as well as callousness and lack of empathy.
The angelic or lordly nature of humans is linked with their superior intellect, over and above the animals. This quality makes us able to understand things deeply and drives us to aim for higher states. Human life provides a limited time to achieve the higher states that the heart yearns for. When we die there is nothing left of appetites, passions and egos, but the damaging effects of the disease and scars they leave on our hearts can last for eternity.
Related links:
Purification of the Heart Video
SeekersGuidance free online courses: 
Purification of the Heart & Praiseworthy Character (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion)
The Marvels of the Heart

Reflections on Purification of the Heart – Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

On Friday 13th September, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus gave a talk on Purification Of The Heart, based on the book written by Imam Al-Mawlud and translated by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. I left the talk uplifted, motivated, and best of all, armed with practical tips on how to journey along the path to Allah.
Here’s a summary of Shaykh Yahya’s talk:

  1. The heart is the centre of the human being in Islam; everything that occurs in the limbs stems from the heart.
  2. The number one killer in America is heart disease. What leads to it? A complete neglect of self, diet and lifestyle. You can also get spiritual heart disease if you neglect your spiritual condition.
  3. The inner eye of the heart is even more sensitive than the physical eye, and this faculty is constantly being impacted.
  4. Scholars say that the heart is so important because it has two sides; one side is attached the the nafs (who you are in this dunya or worldly life), and the other side is attached to the ruh (spirit), which attaches us to the ghayb (unseen).
  5. A neglected heart is overtaken by the nafs, and the door to the ghayb closes.
  6. The arrogance of Man can be seen in his dealings with Mother Earth – anything but treading lightly!
  7. Using the metaphor of farming, if the nafs takes over, the heart becomes hard, and is no longer fertile. A hard heart loses the sensitivities needed to treat people properly.
  8. Activism will never work until you recognise that history is in good Hands; even the bad is within the Will of Allah, and transgressors will be called to account.
  9. Muslims should be clean people. Don’t have a dirty car. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was a very well-kept person, and he’s even a means to purify us outwardly.
  10. We need specialists in Islamic law, but each of us needs purification of the heart.
  11. You can have your heart aligned with the will of Allah at every single moment.
  12. Imam Al-Haddad was known as the blacksmith of the heart, and your life would chance even by reflecting on the English translation [of his book].
  13. Modern Man cannot be understood without understanding the neglect of hearts. Corporate greed, hatred etc all stem from diseases of the heart.
  14. As long as we have diseases of the heart, our deen is incomplete. This is why we should get married, because any dormant diseases of the heart will get flushed out through interactions with your spouse. Only in marriage can you learn so much about yourself. The difficulties of marriage are a hidden blessing.
  15. Catch yourself [having diseases of the heart] and your heart will become pure. When it becomes overwhelming, let it go, then rein it in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome Gems from Shaykh Yahya:
Begin with reading at least a paragraph, or 5-10 pages daily from the following three books:

  • Purification of the Heart by Imam al-Mawlad, with translation and commentary by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
  • Book of Assistance by Imam Al-Haddad
  • Path of The Worshippers by Imam Al-Ghazzali

1)  Sit with the righteous.
2)  Recite Qur’an, with or without understanding, and it will change you.
3)  Cut back on food intake. Stop two bites short. Shaykh Yahya’s teachers advised him that doing so will be very spiritually beneficial.
4)  Pray Tahajjud (night vigil prayer)
5)  Turn to Allah in dhikr. Say “Ya Allah” 100 times with your heart turned towards Him, preferably before Fajr.

Paraphrased Q&A:

Q)  Reflections on the Qasidas sung tonight.
A)   Outward behaviour influences our inward state. Look at the meaning of Qad Kafani.

            The knowledge of my Lord is sufficient
            from my asking or choosing
            So my dua and my beseeching You
            is a testimony to my impoverishment
            For this secret (reason) I ask You
            in ease and hardship
            I am a servant whose glory
            is in my impoverishment

It’s so comforting. Allah knows what we need even before we ask. If we have that, our hearts won’t have turbidity.
Q) What is your advice on friendship?
A)  When it comes to voluntary friendships, seek out good people who will uplift you. When it comes to involuntary friendships (family members, in-laws etc), then remember that Allah gives us these relationships to test us, but at the same time, it doesn’t mean we just sit there and take abuse if it happens. Shaykh Yahya knows people for whom it’s impermissible to be around their own fathers, out of fear of physical abuse.
Q)  How do we deal with our children using electronic devices such as the TV, iPads, iPhones etc?
A)  Parents must monitor their kids in what they watch. Keep them away from nonsense as much as possible, and show alternatives. Watch TV shows with them, and when you see something bad, tell them, “Look, that’s terrible!” It’s much more exhilarating for children to work in the garden, milk goats etc.
Q)  What is the greatest lesson you learned from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf?
A)  Understanding what sincerity is. When doing acts of worship, have no other reason except for Allah being deserving of our worship.
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.