Imam al-Mawlud; Hamza Yusuf Hanson (translator) Publisher:
Starlatch Press (June 2004) Pages:
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
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
From the section: Courtesy: the Heart of
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.
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.