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Understanding in the religion is not just mere knowledge, it is knowledge and action. And this is why the Salaf used to warn against much reading and having little understanding as Abdullah ibn Mas’ood radhiAllahu ‘anhu used to say:

“What will be of you if readers become many and the people of understanding become few?”

Therefore, if a person learns something from Allah’s religion but does not act upon it, he is not a person of understanding. Even if he memorizes and understands the biggest books of jurisprudence but does not act upon it, this person is not called a person of understanding, rather he is called a reader. The person of understanding is he who acts upon that which he learns, so he studies first then he acts, this is the one that has understanding of the religion. As for he who studies but does not act, then he is not a person of understanding but rather he is a reader. And this is why the people of Shu’aib ‘alayhi salam said to him:

“We do not understand much of what you say.” [Hud 11:91]

They were prevented from good because of that which Allah knew was in their hearts of evil.

Therefore uphold the study of the religion and uphold acting upon it so that you may be from those who Allah wills good for.

  • Transcribed from: The Greater Understanding | Shaykh Dr. Saleh ibn Fawzaan ibn Abdullah Al-Fawzaan

When a person anticipates what his Hawā is calling him to prior to attaining it, he should then reflect on his state after his satisfaction has passed, he should compare this between his satisfaction and his sin, for that is when he will know that he has lost double of what he has gained.

A poet said regarding this:

How much satisfaction that provoked happiness

Ended up revealing sadness and sorrow

How many desires ripped from their participants

The garment of religion and virtue

Know that when a human acts in accordance to his Hawā, he will find himself in disgrace and humiliation, even if this Hawā does not harm him, that is because he feels subdued by his Hawā, but when he overcomes his Hawā, he will find in himself honor and pride as he will feel triumphant and victorious. For this reason, when people see an ascetic they become amazed by him, and they would kiss his hand [to show respect] because they perceive him as a person who is strong enough to leave what they were weak in the face of and that is disobeying Hawā.  

  • Transcribed from: Disciplining the Soul; Tibb al-Ruhāni | Ibn al-Jawzi

Shield Yourself

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Alllaah have mercy upon him) said:

Beware of enabling Shaytaan to establish himself in the very home of your thoughts and intentions, as he will corrupt them in such a manner that will make difficult its correction thereafter. He will cast all sorts of whisperings and harmful thoughts at you and he will prevent you from thinking about what may benefit you. And it is you who have aided him against yourself by empowering him over your heart and thoughts, and he then placed you in possession of such thoughts.

  • Source: Al-Fawaa’id | Transcribed from: Causes Behind the Increase and Decrease of Eemaan | Shaykh ‘Abdur-Razzaaq

Ibn al-Jawzī authored the following as an advice to his son, Abu’l-Qasim Badr al-Dīn ‘Alī al-Nasikh.1 

You should know, my son, may Allāh guide you to what is right, that man has been distinguished by intellect only so that he would act according to it. Bring it to the fore, use it in contemplation and spend time alone with yourself. You will conclude that you are a created being who has responsibilities and obligations and that the two angels are counting your every word and glance. Every breath is a step closer to death. The time we spend in this world is short, the time we are held in our graves is long, and the punishment for following our base desires is calamitous.

Where is the delight of yesterday? It has departed leaving only regret in its wake. Where is the soul’s desire? How many has it brought low, how many has it caused to slip and falter? People have only attained happiness by going against their lusts and desires. People have only become wretched by giving preference to the life of this world. Learn from the lives of kings and ascetics: where is the delights of the kings and where is the weariness of the ascetics? The only thing left is the abundant reward and beautiful mention for the pious, and the malicious words and calamitous punishment for the disobedient. It is as if those who starved never starved and those who ate to their fill never did so. Laziness in virtuous deeds is an evil companion indeed, and love of comfort causes regret greater than any enjoyment. So take heed and tire yourself for your self.

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An old, worn, wooden footbridge over a ravine in NepalIt was reported that (Prophet) Nuh lived in a house made of wool for nine hundred and fifty years. The Messenger salAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam never put a stone over another [his house was built of mud] and on Umar ibn al-Khattab’s radiAllāhu ‘anhu garment there were twelve patches. This is because they understood that this world is a bridge and a bridge should not be taken as a home. Thus, whoever fails to be aware of this knowledge will be afflicted with the disease of Sharah1, and should cure himself by seeking knowledge and contemplating the biographies of wise scholars.

Footnotes:
1. Sharah: Used for extravagance, and is generally used to refer to gluttony

  • Transcribed from: Disciplining the Soul; Tibb al-Ruhāni | Ibn al-Jawzi

Hawā is the inclination of one’s nature to what suits it and that should not be criticized when what is sought after is lawful. However, it should be dispraised when one is excessive in following Hawā. That said, when Hawā is criticized in an absolute manner, it is because most of it is either impermissible, or because people usually interpret lawfulness, and hence indulge in it in excess.

Know that part of the inner self is intellectual, the virtue of which is wisdom, the vice of which is ignorance, part of it is elicited, the virtue of which is poignancy, the vice of which is cowardice, part of it is lustful, the virtue of which is chastity and the vice of which is unrestrained Hawā. Exhibiting patience in the face of vice is a merit of the inner self by which a person endures both goodness and evil. Therefore, whoever lacks patience and allows his Hawā to lead his mind has then made the follower be followed and the led a leader. That said, it is expected that everything he desires will return to him and that he will be harmed from where he expected to benefit; he will be saddened by that which he expected happiness to come from.

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Just as hereditary disposition is hidden (1), “bad characteristics are [also] hidden;” (2) because character is transferable, and [first] impressions are major abductors of hearts, and people are like the flocks of birds, naturally disposed to imitating one another; so beware of associating with whosoever is to this liking; for it is indeed destruction, and “prevention is better than cure.”

Therefore, choose the best for companionship and friendship; someone who will help you in your quest, in drawing nearer to your Lord, and agrees with you in your noble objective and intention. Take [from me] the most precise gauge in categorizing friends: (3)

  1. A friend who befriends you [solely] for his welfare.
  2. A friend who befriends you [solely] for fun.
  3. A friend who befriends you for virtue.

As regards the first two [categories of friends], then their [relationship] with you is cut off when the necessitating reason [for which they befriended you] is fulfilled: the attainment of welfare in the first and fun in the second.

As for the third category, then this is the one we will concentrate on. He is the one who is driven into a friendship due to mutual benefit in the firm establishment of virtue in both people.

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