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Purification of the Heart : Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart : Translation and Commentary of Imam al-Mawlud's Matharat al-Qulub (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)

Purification of the Heart : Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart : Translation and Commentary of Imam al-Mawlud's Matharat al-Qulub (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)

Purification of the Heart : Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart : Translation and Commentary of Imam al-Mawlud's Matharat al-Qulub (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)
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ISBN: 1929694156
Author: Imam al-Mawlud; Hamza Yusuf Hanson (translator)
Publisher: Starlatch Press (June 2004)
Pages: 268 Binding: Paperback

Description from the publisher:

This exploration of Islamic spirituality delves into the psychological diseases and cures of the heart. Diseases examined include miserliness, envy, hatred, treachery, rancor, malice, ostentation, arrogance, covetousness, lust, and other afflictions that assail people and often control them. The causes and practical cures of these diseases are discussed, offering a penetrating glimpse into how Islam deals with spiritual and psychological problems and demonstrating how all people can benefit from these teachings.

Almost universally, religious traditions have stressed the importance of the condition of the heart. In the Muslim scripture, the Day of Judgment is described as a day in which neither wealth nor children shall be of any benefit, except one who comes to God with a sound heart (Quran, 26:88-89). The sound heart is understood to be free of character defects and spiritual blemishes. This “heart” is actually the spiritual heart and not the physical organ per se, although in Islamic tradition the spiritual heart is centered in the physical.
Hamza Yusuf is the founder of the Zaytuna Institute, which is committed to inspiring a traditional understanding and study of the core Islamic sciences. He has also served as an advisor to President Bush on Islamic affairs. He lives in Hayward, California.

From the section: Freedom and Purification

Imam Mawlud speaks next about freedom, which is achieved when one realizes the qualities of shame and humility, and empties oneself of their opposites (shamelessness and arrogance). With these qualities come true freedom, wealth, and dignity, which require manumission from the bonds of one’s whims. People may claim to be “free,” yet they cannot control themselves from gluttony in the presence of food or from illicit sexual relations when the opportunity presents itself. Such a notion of freedom is devoid of content.

Freedom has real meaning, for example, when a situation of temptation arises and one remains God-fearing, steadfast, and in control of one’s actions. This holds true even when the temptation produces flickers of desire in a person who nonetheless refrains from indulging. Imam al-Ghazali speaks at length about the stomach and the genitals as the two “dominant ones”; if they are under control, all other aspects of desire are kept in check. One may also include in this the tongue, which can be a formidable obstacle. There are people, for example, who appear incapable of stopping themselves from backbiting and speaking ill of others, and they often do so without realizing it.


From the section: Courtesy: the Heart of Purification

Imam Mawlud begins with a play on words that is lost in translation. The word for beginning in Arabic is bad’u, and the word for heart (qalb) means also to reverse something. If one were to literally reverse the word bad’u in Arabic, the word adab would result, which is the term for courtesy—which is where this treatise begins, since courtesy is the portal to the purification of the heart.

Adab in Arabic means a combination of things, in addition to courtesy. Adib (a derivative of adab), for example, has come to mean an erudite person, someone who is learned, for high manners and courtesy are associated with learning and erudition. But at the root of the word adab, the idea of courtesy is firmly established. Imam Mawlud starts his treatise with courtesy, since excellent behavior and comportment are the doorkeepers to the science of spiritual purification. One must have courtesy with regard to God—behave properly with respect to His presence—if he or she wishes to purify the heart. But how does one achieve this courtesy? Imam Mawlud mentions two requisite qualities associated with courtesy: haya’ and dhul.

Haya’ conveys the meaning of shame, though the root word of haya’ is closely associated with life and living. The Prophet stated, “Every religion has a quality that is characteristic of that religion. And the characteristic of my religion is haya’,” an internal sense of shame, which includes bashfulness and modesty.

Most adults alive today have heard it said when they were children, “Shame on you!” Unfortunately, shame has come to be viewed as a negative word, as if it were a pejorative. Parents are now advised never to “shame a child,” never correct a child’s behavior by causing an emotional response. Instead, the current wisdom suggests that people always make the child feel good regardless of his or her behavior. Eventually, what this does is disable naturally occurring deterrents to misbehavior.

Some anthropologists divide cultures into shame and guilt cultures. They say that guilt is an inward mechanism and shame an outward one. With regard to this discussion, guilt alludes to a human mechanism that produces strong feelings of remorse when someone has done something wrong, to the point that he or she needs to rectify the matter.


From the section on Hatred

The next disease is bughd, which is hatred. In itself, hatred is not necessarily negative. It is commendable to hate corruption, evil, disbelief, murder, lewdness, and anything else that God has exposed as despicable. The Prophet never disliked things because of their essences, but because of what they manifested.

Hatred or strong dislike of a person for no legitimate reason is the disease of bughd. The Prophet once said to his Companions, “Do you want to see a man of Paradise?” A man then passed by and the Prophet said, “That man is one of the people of Paradise.” So a Companion of the Prophet decided to learn what it was about this man that earned him such a commendation from the Messenger of God. He spent time with this man and observed him closely. He noticed that he did not perform the Night Prayer Vigil (Tahajjud) or anything extraordinary. He appeared to be an average man of Madinah. The Companion finally told the man what the Prophet had said about him and asked if he did anything special. And the man replied, “The only thing that I can think of, other than what everybody else does, is that I make sure that I never sleep with any rancor in my heart towards another.” That was his secret.

The cure for hatred is straightforward. One should pray for the person toward whom he feels hatred, make specific supplications mentioning this person by name, asking God to give this person good things in this life and the next. When one does this with sincerity, hearts mend. If one truly wants to purify his or her heart and root out disease, there must be total sincerity and conviction that these cures are effective.