Aphorism 1: “Spiritual diseases affect your heart, which becomes blind with sins, and can only be healed by sincere repentance.”
NB: Most of this commentary was based on a commentary by the author, Sheikh Dr Muhammed Ibn Yahya Al-Ninowy, which was given at The Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town on July 7th, 2018 (link below). I apologise for any errors I may have made due to, but not limited to, misunderstanding any points or misquoting any references.
The “spiritual disease” that affects your heart is ghafla. This literally means heedlessness or absenteeism. It is ghafla of God that the author refers to. It is, as stated in Aphorism 4 of the book, “when you are absent in your prayers, your fasting is starvation and thirst, and your response to His continues kindness to you is complaints”. You are there but you are not present. This is ghafla.
Spiritual diseases “affect your heart”. The author emphasises the condition of the heart throughout the book. The heart represents Love and the Sheikh highlights that, to worship is to Love. Therefore, to Love Him is to worship Him. In essence, the core of worship is Love.
The cause of the spiritual diseases is “sins”. Note that it is one thing to sin, however it’s another to plan to sin, to insist on sinning or to be pleased by the sin. We have to understand sinning before we can come to repentance. There is, as the author puts it, a “fiqh” (Jurisprudence) to sinning:
1) Do not belittle/classify sins. Al-Baghdadi mentions in his Tareekh on the Authority of Bilal Ibn Sa’ad: “Do not look at how small the sin may be but look at the One you’ve disobeyed.”
2) Try to identify places/people/things associated with the sin. Sins are not coincidental. The pre-requisites are what you expose yourself to. Distance or cut yourself off completely. God says in Verse 68 of Surah An’am, which means: “And if you see those who indulge ignorantly in our verses, then avoid them until they indulge in something else. If Satan makes you forget, then, when you have remembered, do not sit with those who are doing wrong.”
3) Fix your thoughts. It’s the thoughts that generate words and deeds. Don’t give evil ones a single opportunity to take residence and mushroom in your mind. It is true, according to the hadith narrated by Ibn Abbaas[B;M], that you will not be punished in the hereafter for an evil thought so long as you don’t carry it out. However, know that it will almost certainly have instantaneous repercussions in this world if you let it fester.
4) “Once you’re done [with your duties], busy yourself and seek your Lord” [94; 7-8]. This includes worshiping, dawah, positively contributing to society etc. Remember not to think that you are doing any organisation, platform or community a favour. Using your time for virtuous acts will actually save you. We’ve all heard that “the idle mind is the devils playground”. If you don’t busy yourself with good, your nafs will busy you with evil. When you are giving your time, you are not really giving. You are really taking so much more than you are giving.
5) When sinning, remember God. No one sins while remembering God. One chooses to switch the thought off. God speaks of granting forgiveness to “…those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember God and seek forgiveness for their sins [immediately]…”[2;135]
6) Don’t sleep at night without coming back to your lord. Sheikh Ninowy often shares the number, 444. 4 rakaat, at 4AM, with 4 Tears. Do not be afraid to look weak in front of your lord. He knows you are weak. “Man was created weak” [4; 28]. The reason for the time is that it is the reported that during the last 3rd of the night, God calls out to his creation: “Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?” [Bukhari; Muslim]
7) Feel self-guilt, and do not mention the sin to others. It’s another sin not be shameful of the sin. The Prophet (PBUH) reportedly gave an example of someone who is not shamefaced by speaking of one who “commits an evil deed in the night that God has hidden for him, then in the morning he says: O people, I have done this sin!” [Bukhari; Muslim]
8) Follow any evil deed immediately with a good deed. This does not necessarily mean that an evil deed is completely erased by a good deed but there is a narration on the authority of Abu Dhar, which is graded Hasan(acceptable) and is in Tirmidhi, that the The Prophet (PBUH) told him: “Have taqwa of God (I.e. be present with God) wherever you are. And if you do an evil deed, follow it by a good deed. It erases it. And when you mingle with people, be good with them”.
9) Do not cite other people’s sins. “A man said: By God, God will not forgive this person! God Almighty said: Who is he who swore by me that I will not forgive someone? I have forgiven him and nullified all your good deeds.” [Muslim]
10) Repent. “Indeed, God loves those who turn to Him in repentance” [1; 222]. “Sincere” repentance is experienced in the heart, followed by a mental commitment to stay away from the sin and is, only then, uttered on the tongue.
The Arabic word for “repentance”, Tauba, literally means “To return to”. Therefore repentance is the beginning of your path back to God. Perhaps the wisdom is that you, now, return with humility and the reminder that you are helpless in front of Him. Use the sin against the sin. Use the sin to bring yourself closer to Him. Define the core objective of the sin.
By Ahmed Ghoor
Madina Class of 2018