Reformation of the Heart
Translated Speech of
His Eminence Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan
Shaikh Silsilah Naqshbandiah Owaisiah
The holy Quran invariably associates guidance with illumination and reformation of the heart. It always ascribes the delusion of previous nations to the gloom of their hearts and also indicates the factors that contribute towards this malady. Similarly, it attributes guidance to heart's reformation and also suggests the methods of its attainment. This point has not just been mentioned casually but this is the fundamental and focal point of all its teachings.
Different exercises are prescribed to keep each body organ healthy and fit. These exercises are practically taught in special schools of physical education. The patients who cannot do any other exercise are advised to stroll in their rooms to keep their organs agile and active. But it is amazing that we devote whole attention to our bodies and do not care about the health of our hearts. On the other hand, this important point has been repeatedly stressed in the Quran and it forms the basis of salvation in the Hereafter. The Muslim masses in general and the religious scholars in particular, ignore this important aspect as if it would come automatically. In our practical lives we never expect anything to happen by itself. No body leaves his children at large, hoping that they would be automatically educated by the society. On the contrary, he spends a lot of time and money to select a good school for them and despite best efforts, always remains concerned about the standard of their education. If you want to learn any profession, you would certainly have to devote a lot of time and effort. To learn a simple profession like masonry, driving, tailoring or shoe making, you would have to look for an expert and get his instructions. No body has ever argued that he can learn it on his own because all these professions are already being practised in the society. Had that been a correct contention, we would have learned to stitch our clothes, make our shoes or construct our houses, all by ourselves. No body believes this theory in his practical life. When we don't expect even the smallest event to happen by itself, how can we ignore the most important task, which is the key to eternal bliss, and expect to acquire it without any effort.
The holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o Alaihi wa Sallam) has stated that there is a lump of flesh in the human body whose health reforms the entire body and its malady disturbs the whole physical balance. "Hearken", he said "that is the Qalb" (heart). It is a miracle of the Prophets that the heart of every believer who attends their august company, attains to the acme of human excellence in a single moment. Even then, we find many Companions who specifically requested the holy Prophet-saw to give special attention to their hearts for greater reformation. Some requested him to move his blessed hand over their chest. In the words of Quran, every cell of a Companion's body resonated with Allah's Zikr. On their part, however, they didn't feel satisfied about their achievement and remained worried about their shortfalls. Once the holy Prophet-saw praised Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddiq-rau and said, "He is not superior to you because he excels you in worship but because of what I have poured from my heart into his. No other heart can acquire what his heart has acquired from mine."
The indifference shown to this most important aspect is the malady of our modern times only. During the yesteryears even the common Muslims tried to require this blessing. If you read the biography of previous scholars, you would discover that each one of them, without exception, after completing his education, remained in the company of some Shaikh for a definite period of time. It had been a regular practice of the religious institutions and scholars to dispatch their students to some Shaikh for spiritual enlightenment and self reformation.
Some people object to our method of Zikr. We uphold their objection and concede that our method may not be necessarily correct. They should however, not stop us from Zikr but tell us the correct method and the number of people reformed by their way. Otherwise, we would be justified to conclude that they are only trying to undermine the efforts of those who are serving this cause. Actually, Allah and His Prophet-saw have not forbidden any particular method of Zikr. There is only one restriction; the form of Zikr should not cross the bounds of Shari‘ah. No one can adopt a method of Zikr which is evil or prejudices the rights of others or violates any injunction of the Shari‘ah. All forms of Zikr which remain within these prescribed limits are permissible. You can perform Zikr sitting, standing, walking or reclining. When Allah has given the permission, how can anyone else impose any restrictions? The form and frequency of Salah (prayers), Zakat (poor due) and Hajj have been defined by the Shari‘ah but no form has been prescribed for Zikr. The Divine Command enjoins the believers to perform Zikr continuously. It should be done at every moment and under all conditions, standing, sitting, reclining, sleeping and while awake. There is only one restriction. You cannot violate the limits defined by the holy Prophet-saw.
We are neither authorised to compel others to adopt our method nor declare a particular form as wrong. Similarly, no body has the right to ask us to leave our method. It is not the method of Zikr which really matters, but the spiritual attention of the Shaikh received by the seekers during Zikr. That is the real blessing. Without this attention, continuous Zikr of a whole lifetime cannot illuminate even the first Latifah (subtlety) Qalb. It simply cannot happen by itself. If someone has the land, water for irrigation, fertilisers and cultivation equipment, he still cannot grow any crop unless he sows the seed. Without the seed, his efforts would bring no fruit. The spiritual attention is akin to this seed. Even with the best of efforts, no spiritual growth can even be imagined without this attention. Reformation of the soul is one of the duties of Prophethood. The Taba’in reformed themselves in the company of the Companions and the Tab’a Taba’in acquired it from them. Just as a person has to go to a scholar to acquire knowledge, one has to similarly remain in the company of an accomplished Shaikh and strive earnestly to acquire spiritual blessings.
Allah has mentioned that these people are not the first ones to inhabit the earth. Many generations have passed before them. Their predecessors also governed mighty empires and possessed huge property. Where have they all perished? If their forefathers could not perpetuate their existence, can these people live for ever? If they are following in the footsteps of their elders then have they prepared themselves for their onward journey? This single example is sufficient to teach a lesson. An infant spends his childhood in a family, becomes a father one day and ultimately a grandfather. His children know nothing about his grandparents, who had died much before the birth of his children. He doesn't realise that after a couple of generations no body will remember him. Only those, who are in his own lap, know him, but he would cease to exist in the memory of his grandchildren.
Allah has warned mankind that He can grasp them instantly, if He so desires. Allah's grasp is always instant but people do not perceive. Apparently, the heavens do not fall and the earth is not torn asunder, but actually, an extremely important change takes place unnoticeably: hearts of the evil doers are sealed; they do not perceive and cannot differentiate between right and wrong. It is not necessary that the Divine wrath should descend in the form of a visible calamity, as for the previous generations. The sealing of hearts and the loss of sense of discrimination is an equally grave punishment, because no amount of good advice can ever reform such a person. This deprivation, when accompanied by worldly affluence, has been graded as the greatest curse by the Quran. These townships, whose fables are included in the folk lore, similarly sailed to their ultimate perdition. A darkened heart cannot perceive. Although a person retains his outwardly human form, but inwardly, he turns more beastly than an animal. By Allah's grace we are Muslims. Despite being delinquent, we still retain some honour and shame. But these human values are almost totally extinct in the non-Muslim societies. Their habits and relationships are not based on mutual human respect and consideration, but are driven by the animal instincts of selfishness, oppression, immodesty and the like. Apparently they are healthy, wealthy and strong people but their hearts are unclean. Like animals, they possess no sense of shame.
The Divine Book informs us that Allah never destroyed the earlier people before sending them guidance. His Messengers brought clear proofs to them but they refused to believe. Allah's Book and words of the Prophets do not impress a heart that has lost its faculty of perception. How can that heart be affected by any other preaching, advice or book? Such people with ruined hearts do not remain trustworthy. Their loyalty keeps swaying between Faith and Kufr (disbelief), and they are blinded by the frenzy to satisfy their vain desires. Their hearts take to vice. Perversion of thought and practice completely shrouds their lives.
We know that the symptoms of physical diseases are similar throughout the world. No disease is restricted to a particular area but would definitely develop at every conducive place. AIDS is not restricted to UK or USA alone; if we don't protect ourselves, it can invade our society also. The diseases are not related to colour, area or religion. They have the same effect everywhere. Similarly, when the hearts are ruined, they produce the same spiritual maladies at every place. We feel secure by presuming that only those nations whose heats are ruined will ultimately face their consequences. That is not a correct concept. If we fear the spread of physical epidemics and apprehend similar disaster as in other countries, why don't we realise that this spiritual epidemic can also engulf us? The maladies of hearts can import the same disaster from other countries.
We have seen the effect of Tabligh (preaching) day and night. Although preaching is a religious obligation, whose importance cannot be undermined, but actually it is the vehicle to acquire the reformation of heart. If you keep preaching about food but don't give someone a morsel throughout life, what good is your preaching for? I feel greatly surprised about the religious scholars. They accept the importance of heart reformation in their books and lectures but out rightly deny it in their practical lives.
When the Tartars ransacked Baghdad, it was a seat of great religious learning. Every street resounded with religious discussions and meetings. Its libraries stocked the most valuable religious books. But despite all religious preaching what was the end result? The entire city along with its people, libraries and civilisation was completely destroyed. The whole Ummah still laments the destruction of its literary treasure. Why did all this happen? It happened because their hearts had been completely ruined. They rendered only lip service to religion, without absorbing its blessings in their hearts, least realising that it is the heart and not the tongue which generates effect.
The same principle has been recounted here. Earlier generations and civilisations were destroyed as a sequel to the ruination of their hearts. Human beings of today should also examine their own hearts. Are their hearts alive? A live heart would try to obey Allah; that is actually its food, without which it cannot survive. If it does not demand this food, then it would at least be unconscious or sick, if not totally dead. No one can really succeed unless he devotes proper attention to the reformation of his heart. That is what I have understood by Allah's grace. May Allah make it easy for us! Ameen!