Category Archives: Quranic Spiritual Development

Quran On Controlling Anger

I absolutely love this teacher, and this reminder. The Quran is full of practical advice, that instantly enhances the quality of your life, when you apply it. Here is Br Noman’s understanding of Allah’s guidance on the psychology of controlling your anger…

What is the deepest insight you got from these Quran verses? Post below.

How To Master Your Nafs – Part 1

Part 1 – The Nafs And The Mind

The human being has 4 enemies, according to the Islamic tradition: your ‘nafs’ (lower self), your desires (hawa), shaytan (satan), and the ‘dunya’ (this temporary material world). In this article, I’m going to define the ‘nafs’ as it has traditionally been defined, in the Quran and Sunnah. Then I’m going to share with you how this relates to your mind and emotions. Then, I’ll give you some techniques you can use to literally ‘master’ your nafs, or at the very least, prove to you that you can.

Much has been written about the nafs by Muslim scholars throughout the ages, and much has been discovered more recently in Western psychology, and by leaders of the ‘human potential’ movement. This series of articles intends to bridge that gap, and set you up with a new understanding that will literally empower you to ‘master your nafs’. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that the Arabic term for ‘psychology’ is ‘ilm an-Nafs’ – knowledge of the ‘self’.

The first thing to clarify is that there are several definitions that can be given to the nafs, and the several ways in which the term is used throughout the Quran and in Islamic literature.

1. The Nafs as the ‘Lower Self’

Start by thinking of the human being as having a ‘heart’ – a psycho-spiritual heart – the essence of what makes us human. According to the Islamic tradition, this ‘Qalb’ or ‘heart’ contains 2 parts of us. The ‘nafs’ – the lower self and the ‘ruh’ – the higher self. There is a precedent in the Islamic tradition to avoid over-questioning what the ‘ruh’ is, because by essence its true nature cannot be understood by the human mind. It suffices to say that it makes up the best part of us.

For those of you into psychology, this definition of the nafs is comparable to Freud’s understanding of the  id (lower self, nafs), super-ego (higher-self, ruh), and ego (self – the balance between the two). However, what Freud writes about the id and super ego does not necessarily equate to what the Quran and Sunnah teach about the nafs and ruh. (The Islamic understanding of the ‘ruh’ in particular is very different to Freud’s theories about the super-ego)

2. The Nafs as the ‘Level’ of your soul. 

Throughout the Quran, references are made to the nafs and from these scholars have deduced that there are 7 distinct ‘levels’ of the nafs. The first and lowest is “nafs al-ammarah”  the inciting soul (see Surah Yusuf vs 53) which is completely unconscious and unaware and so inclines towards evil. The highest is “nafs al-kamila”, the perfect soul, believed by some to be a station attained only by the Prophets (see Surah Nahl, vs 91).

The 2 definitions above will give you much more clarity when you read Islamic writings on the soul, where the term nafs is either being used to describe the ‘lower self’ or the current ‘level’ of your soul.

With these definitions in mind, I would like to let you in on a theory that allows us all to understand the connection between our mind, thoughts, emotions and soul, in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah.

3. A Psychological Definition Of The Nafs.

My contention is that the ‘nafs’ is a word used to describe our thinking mind. This includes every thought you have or are having right now of the past and the future, and the emotional patterns triggered by your thoughts. If you want to master your ‘nafs’, the most effective way to do this (as is done automatically by all the pious people who have mastered their nafs) is to let go of your thoughts. If this makes absolutely no sense to you right now and you’re thinking…

“But aren’t thoughts… good?! Aren’t we meant to think? Isn’t it ‘I think, therefore I am’?”

…then hang in there, because you’re about to have a spiritual insight that, insha’Allah, will bring you much closer to Allah (swt), improve the power of your Salah, and put a smile on your face for the rest of the day by allowing you to master your nafs, right now.

The reason your mind, (or your nafs) has a strong reaction to this understanding is that your whole sense of your “self” is based around your thinking mind. You think you are your thoughts. You are not. You are much more than your thoughts. You are the consciousness, the space, within which the thoughts exist.

Often your thoughts rush through your mind so thick and fast that you can go for an entire day without ever having peace of mind – a peace which can only come by quieting your thoughts. And sometimes, perhaps during Salah, or the few moments after a Salah, you will have been in a state where there was silence, not just around you, but inside you. Silence inside your mind. You were free from thought. Free from your nafs.

When your thoughts are completely quiet, you are fully conscious. When a thought enters your mind, just notice that the thought entered. Observe the thought. By doing this, you do not identify with it. You realise that you are the consciousness that observes the thought, not the thought itself.

Play this game as you read this article. And rest assured that once you ‘get’ the point of this article, you can be in a state of ‘no-mind’, or ‘no-thought’, if only for a few seconds to start with. Then, you can move on to the following articles and train your mind (your nafs) so that you control them, rather than allowing them to control you.

First you must simply notice your thoughts, and realise that you are not your thoughts. The moment a thought comes up, observe it, and you are outside of it. You realise that you are more than it.

Mind And Emotions

It’s well established in different areas of psychology that your mind and your emotions are linked. In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the aim is to realise which thoughts came up when you felt a negative emotion, then write out the distortions in that ‘automatic’ thought, and think about the situation in a different, more realistic way. This frees you from the negative emotion, and allows you to improve your well-being.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a central tennet is that you control your mind, therefore your emotions and your results. NLP teaches you to direct your focus or ‘internal representations’ (ie. the pictures and words that make up your thoughts) and to direct the way you use your physical body in order to get into any emotional state you want. This is very cool, and very powerful, and I’ll show you how in a future article, insha’Allah.

Both these methods are good for helping you direct your mind and control your emotions. In other words, they help you master your nafs. However, the deeper spiritual state I want you to enter is to be completely free from your thought-emotion reactional patterns. You can do this instantly, by simply noticing your thoughts as they enter, and noticing the feelings inside your body when they come up.

Some great questions to ask yourself consistently to help you enter this state are:

“What’s happening in my body right now?”

“Is my body at ease right now?”

“Am I at ease right now?”

…and notice what is happening inside your body. By asking yourself these questions, you will interrupt the thought/emotion pattern and for a moment you become present and fully conscious (free from your nafsy-thoughts).

Here’s another great question I want you to ask yourself right now. Ask yourself…

“I wonder what my next thought will be…”

Read that question again, close your eyes and pause before continuing.

What happened? Did you have millions of thoughts rushing through your mind right away, or did you experience a few moments where no thoughts came up? Most people, myself included experience the latter.

Now that you’ve experienced the state of no-mind for a few moments, commit yourself to doing it for a few seconds before the ‘Allahu Akbar’ at the start of every Salah you pray today. Then tell me what happens, and read the subsequent articles to discover the real impact of being in the state you just experienced.

The Quran Versus YouTube

“Except for those who have faith and do good deeds – for them is a reward, never ending”

You may have been lead to believe that knowledge is power. This is incorrect. In the information age, knowledge is potential power. How that knowledge is used and the action that results from it is ultimately what determines whether it empowers or is merely stored. The early Islamic thinker al-Ghazali said it most concisely:

“Knowledge without action is insane. Action without knowledge is in vein.”

However, there is a missing link in this equation. What does it take to go from having knowledge on a matter to taking action, and so becoming ‘powerful’, in the purest sense of the word?

You cannot go from knowledge to action, without first passing through a level of emotion. It’s emotion that drives us to action, not knowledge.

We all have a practically infinite supply of information at our finger tips, courtesy of Google, however this doesn’t make us all instantly all-powerful.

If I ‘Google’ fitness, even though I’ll come across an abundance of information on how to get fit, the outer world (my body) will not change. At least not until something ‘clicks’ and I tap into the power of my inner driving force.

The same is of course true for your Quran studies. You can Google & Facebook all you like, but until you tap into a sense of your inner inspiration and motivation, you won’t take action.

This is probably what brought on one of the biggest challenges standing between you and understanding the Quran in Arabic: YouTube. It’s much easier to scan through YouTube than to actually study the Quran. On YouTube you can watch videos of people who seem to already be ‘powerful’. People who follow their reading with action. People who are inspired and inspiring.

The only problem with this approach is that the nature of YouTube is that it becomes addictive in and of itself. Whilst you might be entertained for a while, and whilst your spirits may be lifted for a short time, ultimately you are in the Zone of Delusion.

You are not achieving anything worthwhile, but you are deluding yourself into thinking that you are. If you manage to spend hours watching YouTube Islamic lectures, but not even minutes studying the Quran itself, something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong.

YouTube lectures are a quick-fix of emotional buzz. For the few minutes you’re watching the video you may be inspired, but unless you use that inspiration to fuel your real goals – your Quran goals – it becomes time wasted. (Not to mention the chances that you’ll soon skip from an Islamic lecture to a video of a cat urinating in a toilet.)

I want you to have a better, longer lasting source of true motivation. It’s within you right now. It’s the power Allah (swt) gave you to control your mind, direction, focus, and emotional state. Of course, your mind didn’t come with an instruction manual. But intelligent humans have done their best over the ages to create one.

When you learn to master your emotional states, you’ll no longer be watching Islamic lectures on YouTube. You’ll have empowered yourself to study the Quran enough to actually deliver them.

How To Wake Up For Fajr Habit: Days 1-5

If you want to wake up for Fajr every day of the week, you need to know 2 things. First, how to install a new habit. Second, how to train your mind and body to react when you first wake up, so you don’t stay in bed or fall back to sleep. Both of these will be covered in other posts. This one jumps ahead a little and give you an insight into how I’m installing the Fajr habit personally.

You see, about a week ago, I decided that 2011 would be the year I consciously decide to improve my personal self-discipline, using 30-day new habit trials.  I’ll explain how you can install any habit in 30 days in a future post. This post is going to explore the first 5 days of the first 30-day habit trial I do this year – waking up and staying up from Fajr.

This is something I’ve done consistently in the past, but in all honesty it’s been a bit rocky since summer 2010. When you work from home and only have deadlines you set yourself, there’s no real reason to wake up early. Well, except for all the baraqa, blessings, and productivity 🙂

Anyway, since I’m re-installing it, I thought it would be beneficial to share the experience with you, so when you do it yourself, you know what to expect.

Defining the Habit

In order for this new habit to work, I decided not to put any ‘rules’ on what I have to do when I wake up. Some people advise having a morning ritual, which is a good idea usually. However, the morning routine I want to ultimately put in place is quite gruelling, involving dhikr, exercise, Quran and other stuff, and it will instantly collapse if I don’t wake up early. So, my only goal for the next 25 days is to wake up every day at 7am and stay up.

By the way, if that seems ridiculously easy to you, bear a couple of things in mind: first, I work from home with a completely flexible schedule, so no-one’s going to tell me off, or fire me if I don’t get up; second, I selected 7am because that’s the ‘sweet spot’ – the time when I can pray Fajr every day for 3/4 of the year, without missing it. In the UK the ‘sweet spot’ is probably 6am, depending on where you are (I live in Spain).You can check prayer times to find out what the ‘sweet spot’ is where you live. Finally, we’re talking about doing this every single day, including weekends. Waking up for Fajr is a life-style change, not a habit done in a zombie-like state.

Also, training myself to wake up at 7am is the same difficulty as waking up at 5am, from where I am right now. But that would just create 2 extra hours in the morning that I’m awake and my wife is asleep, and 2 extra hours at night when the opposite is true. That seems pointless to me right now, but I might try it in the future – some people I know swear by it.

Days 1 – 5

Because there are no ‘rules’ about what I have to do when I wake up, I’ve basically done whatever I wanted over the last 4 days. Day 1 was difficult waking up but by the time I had prayed Fajr, I was wide awake. Although I probably still would have gone back to sleep if I hadn’t made a really strong commitment to do this 30 day habit thing. I really took the biscuit on Day 2, when I woke up and just played Mario on the Wii for about an hour, in order to stop myself from falling asleep.

I’m on Day 5 today, and I woke up with no problems and no hesitation. I also had no thoughts of going back to sleep in contrast to the previous 4 days. It appears my nafs is getting used to the idea that when I wake up, there is no going back, so its learning to just deal with it. This is a stark contrast to days 1 & 2 when all I thought about was going back to bed!

Alhamdulillah, I think I’ve passed the first threshold now though – most of the mornings have unintentionally been quite productive. I’ve spent them: cleaning up; doing admin work; today I re-invented this blog; catching up on email (although that was a bad idea first thing in the morning, as it put me in ‘reactive’ mode all day); and creating content for upcoming Quran Coaching programs.

The biggest motivating ‘boost’ is seeing the blue A4 sheet on the pin board to the left of my desk with the month to view, and 5 days in a row crossed off. Because I’m taking this year slow, and tackling one habit at a time, it’s doing wonders for my self-esteem. That’s because I know I’m doing my best, and if I keep going, I’ll be a much better version of me by this time next year, insha’Allah 🙂

Self-Esteem Versus Arrogance

SELF – ESTEEM VERSUS ARROGANCE

“God does not love the arrogant and boasting ones” [Quran 31:18]

In western psychology ‘self-esteem’ refers to the esteem you give to yourself. It is a measure of how much you like and value yourself. In other words, it is a measure of the extent to which you live by your own personal values. When you do not act in accordance to your values, you like yourself less, and your self-esteem goes down. When you ‘beat yourself up’ for not acting in accordance to your values, rather than learning from your mistakes and moving on (the Islamic approach to forgiveness), your self – esteem goes down even further and you continue to violate your values and sin.

Low self esteem results in not living according to your values, usually as a result of what you think other people will think of you. For example, not giving your honest opinion when it’s required, because you’re afraid of what others may think. Not having the courage to make a sales call due to fear of rejection rooted in valuing their opinion of you over your opinion of yourself. Wearing, or not wearing hijab, not because of what feels right inside, but because of what other people will think of you.

The truth is nobody knows you better than you do – not even your loved ones. Nobody cares about you more than you do, either. If you die, they’ll morn your loss, but you’ll live eternally with the consequences of your actions.

The hypnosis of Muslim culture encourages us to think that having a high opinion of yourself is a ‘bad thing’ because it could lead to arrogance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having a low opinion of yourself leads to arrogance.

If your opinion of yourself is lower, your inner confidence is diminished and you always need to prove a point to others (and yourself) by unconsciously competing.  This leads to you ‘looking down on people and denying people their rights’ – the Prophet’s definition of arrogance (pbuh).

If you have a high opinion of yourself in areas where you are good, and a low opinion in areas where you struggle, you are closer to the truth of your situation.  This honesty and self-acceptance is the starting point of personal growth.

The problem in your personal development comes when you use patterns of language that put yourself down, and then actually convince yourself that this is a good thing because you are ‘being humble’.  These negative language patterns like “I’m such a loser; I’m so lazy” etc, are not humility they are self-humiliation. They are lies, which become limiting beliefs, which ultimately prevent your success. And they are forbidden. This is why the Prophet (pbuh) said “A believer never humiliates himself”.

Muslim spiritual writings on arrogance as a root disease of the heart, always balance not being boastful and arrogant with not looking down on yourself either. We tend to overlook the second part.  In reality, if you look down on yourself (have low self esteem), you lose your personal dignity (‘izza) which may result in you lashing out in a boastful manner when you get the chance.

To make matters worse, if your self esteem is low the chances are you could even be indulging in a sly form of shirk – valuing others opinions of you affects your behaviour drastically. The only real opinion we should care about is Allah’s opinion. If you let others dictate what you think about yourself, and therefore what you do, this may be a form of ‘riyah’.

This dua will help: Allahuma inna na’uthu bika min an nushrika bika shayan na’alamu wa nastaghfiruka li ma la na’alamu.

Allah, we seek refuge in you from associating partners with you knowingly, and seek your forgiveness from what we don’t know (doing it unknowingly).

The best of examples, our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said quite frankly “I am the best among you, and this is not arrogance’. It’s not arrogance because it’s a fact. He told us, because it’s important for us to know his status, and we can learn from his statement that when you have deep inner confidence and self esteem like he did, there is no arrogance.

Visit http://www.quranforbusypeople.com for more personal development insights that come from the Quran and Sunnah, and to discover the quickest, easiest, most effective way to understand the entire Quran in Arabic in a just a few minutes per day. You’ll get loads more great articles, free webinars, videos and much, much more.

7 Ways To Purify Your Intention And Improve Quran Reading

To get maximum benefit for the time you spend with the Quran, your inner self needs to fully participate. To help you do this, print off the following 7 affirmations and use them as your Quran book-mark. Insha’Allah, within a few days, you will remember these points automatically, and the book mark will serve as an excellent reminder to  increase your consciousness of Allah during your reading.

Say them to yourself just before you start reading, and it will transform the whole experience, insha’Allah.

1. My Qur’an reading will be true tilawah if my inner self participates in it as Allah desires it to

2. I am in Allah’s presence; He is seeing me.

3. I am hearing from Allah.

4. Allah addresses me directly, through His Messenger, when I read the Qur’an.

5. Every word in this Qur’an is meant for me.

6. I am conversing with Allah when I read the Qur’an.

7. Allah will surely give me all the rewards He has promised me through His Messenger for reading and following the Qur’an.

For an in-depth explanation of each one, and their basis in the Quran and Sunnah, read ‘Way To The Quran’ by Khuram Murad. You can read it online here: http://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Books/KM_W2Q/index.htm

Spiritual Presence In Surah Al-Asr

“In the name of God, Lord of Mercy, Giver of Mercy. By time, man is at a loss, except for those who believe, take righteous action, urge one another to truth, and urge one another to steadfastness”

 

Most of us have heard this surah hundreds of times. It is one of the last 14 surahs of the Quran, known as the ‘oft-repeated’ surahs.  This morning as fajr entered, I had an epiphany as I reflected on this verse. As I share it with you, take what is of benefit, and leave what is not. I pray this will bring you closer to the ‘truth’.

 

This short surah teaches humanity four of the most important values we need to inculcate to improve ourselves: belief, action, truth, and steadfastness.

 

I want to draw your attention to the last of these values and connect it to the theme of the surah – time. I believe if you take the approach I’m about to share with you seriously, you will experience far more ‘sabr’ (steadfastness) in your life immediately, and with practise the quality of your life will dramatically improve.

 

PRESENT MOMENT AWARENESS IMPROVES ‘STEADFASTNESS’

 

Most people spend their whole lives either living in the past, or fantasising about the future. People who re-live positive past memories, and imagine positive future outcomes feel good about themselves and perform better day to day. People who re-live negative memories and imagine a future they’re fearful of tend to feel worse about themselves and perform poorly on a day to day basis.

 

However, there are a few people who transcend these patterns altogether, and they are the closest to Allah. Rather than imagining the past or fantasising about the future, they are fully aware in the present moment. In the present moment, there is no pain. Pain only exists when we imagine painful past experiences or fear negative future experiences.

 

I believe this is what Surah al-Asr encourages us to do: believe, take good action, be truthful & be steadfast. All of this becomes possible when we are aware of the fleeting nature of time. Instead of fantasising about the future or the past, be completely attuned to right now. That is the secret to sabr (steadfastness/patience).

 

There are many types of sabr, and all types are improved and easier to follow when we stop the stream of consciousness that distracts our awareness and has us ‘daydreaming’. ‘Sabr’ exists in many forms, and pervades all areas of life. When you are in the gym trying to do the last repetition of lifting that heavy weight – sabr is what keeps you going until you reach momentary muscle failure. Lack of sabr would result in no real physical muscle growth. When you are studying for your finals – sabr keeps you persevering in your studies, instead of giving up.

 

Sabr can be both ‘patience’, or ‘perseverance’. It’s not just the kind of patience you need when you’re sitting in the waiting lounge of a hospital. It’s also the kind of perseverance you need to keep going when all around you have given up. It’s like pushing a car with a broken engine up a hill to get it to the garage where it can be fixed. It requires that you exert consistent effort without quitting.

 

So, what does ‘sabr’ have to do with ‘time’?

 

Our stream of conscious thought is almost always about the past or the future. Both past and future are merely projections of our imagination. Neither really exist, except in our minds. The only time that really exists is right now – and most of us are wasting this moment by thinking about other moments in the past or the future. The ironic thing is that when those imagined moments come to pass, we will miss them because our minds will be focused on the imagined future and past of that moment!

 

The problem with constantly thinking about the past and future is that it makes practising ‘sabr’ somewhere between difficult and impossible. Let’s use the example of sabr when reciting Quran. This is one very common type of sabr we need to inculcate if we want to be deserving of Paradise.

 

Let’s imagine it’s Ramadan and you aim to recite one juz/para of the Quran. If your mind is thinking about how long is left until you can finish it and get back to life, or counting how many pages you’ve already read, then you are not focused on the present moment. When this happens, Quran recitation becomes hard. It’s like waiting for paint to dry.  The truth is, most of the thoughts that pass through your mind during this type of worship are probably not even connected to the Quran at all.

 

Your stream of thought is probably more like “oh yeah, I should have made that money transfer – oh well, I’ll do it tomorrow…. And I need to pick up some vegetables on the way home because we have guests coming over tonight… I have a mild disliking for that guest ever since the time that…” and so on. Sometimes we get fixated on one particular memory, thinking about how we could have acted differently, or wishing we could change it.

 

However, if you switch off your stream of thought, and just ‘be’ in salah, or when reading the Quran, suddenly it’s easy. When you’re focused on being aware and present in this moment, it doesn’t really matter how long the prayer goes on for or how many pages you have left to read. It could go on forever, and you’d be fine as long as in every moment of ‘forever’, you were only aware of that moment.

 

How do you improve your present moment awareness, and therefore your ‘sabr’? Enter a state of no-mind. Be aware, and be free from thought altogether. Notice that there can be a gap between you being aware, and you ‘thinking’. If you catch yourself ‘thinking’ during Quran recitation or prayer, notice yourself thinking and return to the present moment. Then, when the Quran is recited, listen intently and it will affect you deeply.

 

As Muslims, our spirituality is not separate from our daily lives. The practise of sabr pervades all areas of life, not just worship. And so should your practise of being aware of the present moment. The more you do it, the better you get at it. It’s virtually impossible to be aware of this moment, without being overwhelmed by awe of the Majesty of Allah in all that is around you. You won’t even need to ‘think’ about it – you’ll just experience it.

 

Imam Al-Ghazali’s 5 Hidden Secrets Of The Quran

Courtesy of Imam Suhaib Webb:
http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/hidden-secrets-of-the-quran/ 

The Prophet ﷺ said: “There is no intercessor of higher status with Allah on the Day of Judgment than the Qur’an—neither a prophet nor a king nor [any] other.”

Know that there are external manners and internal, hidden secrets to reading the Qur’an. As for the hidden secrets, they are five:

FIRSTLY:

that you sense, at the beginning of your reading, the greatness of the words by sensing the greatness of the speaker. You do this by feeling in your heart the presence of The Throne and His Dominion, the heavens and the earth, and all that is in between them of Jinn, humans, animals and plants; and that you remember that the Creator of all of them is One, and that they are all within His Grasp and Power, experiencing His Favors and Compassion; you feel that you want to read His words and see through them His Attributes, His Beauty, His Knowledge and His Wisdom.

Know that just as the Qur’an can only be touched by those who have purified themselves—while being veiled from the rest—its true meaning and secrets are also veiled from the hearts if they are vile and impure.

SECONDLY:

that you contemplate its meanings while reading, if you [want to be] of the people of the Qur’an. Repeat all that your tongue has recited unmindfully; don’t count mindless reading as part of your good deeds because the purpose of beautiful recitation is to increase contemplation. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “There is no goodness in an act of worship that is void of understanding, nor in recitation that lacks contemplation.”[i]

THIRDLY:

that you reap the fruits of knowledge from their branches and seek them from their abodes, as you contemplate; don’t seek the antidote from where you seek the gems, nor the gems from where you see the musk and [fragrance], for every fruit has its own branch and every gem its own source. 

This is facilitated by knowing the ten categories we have sorted the Qur’an into. Of these ten, are the following:

That of the Qur’an which relates to Allah (Glory be to Him), His Attributes and Actions; seek from it the knowledge of greatness and magnificence.
That which relates to guidance to the Straight Path; seek from it knowledge of mercy, compassion and wisdom.
That which relates to the destruction of enemies; seek from it knowledge of honor and might, conquest and overpowerment.
That which relates to the lives of the prophets; seek from it knowledge of kindness and blessings, favors and generosity.
So, for each category, seek from it that which is most befitting…

FOURTHLY:

that you avoid whatever inhibits your understanding, because that is the covering that prevents you from understanding. Allah (glory be to Him) says “…Indeed, We have placed over their hearts coverings, lest they understand it, and in their ears deafness…” [18:54]. The God-conscious seeker of truth is tested with one of two kinds of coverings: either the veils of doubt and denial that test those who are weak in faith, or the veils of heart-saturating desires that test the ones engrossed in the life of this world.

As for the worshippers who are solely focused on the Way of Allah, they [struggle] with two other kinds of veils.

The first is the whispering which diverts the heart from thinking about one’s intention. How was it at the beginning? Is it still there now? Is there still sincerity now? That is if he were in prayer. Another type of whispering is that which diverts your focus to correct the pronunciation of the letters, which leads to doubt and repetition. This happens in prayer and outside of it [as well]. How can the secrets of the Kingdom be seen by a heart that is focused [only] on how the lips open and close, and how the tongue and jaws move, and how air passes through them?

The second kind of veil the worshipper faces is limiting oneself to the apparent meanings of the Qur’an. This truly inhibits understanding… [because] the truth that Allah has ordered His servants to believe in is of degrees; it has both an apparent meaning (like an outer skin) and a deep internal meaning, which is like the marrow.

For example, [Allah] has ordered His creation to believe that He can be seen; however, seeing has an external and internal [meaning]. If one believes that seeing Allah is similar to the seeing humans are accustomed to in this world, how can he expect to know the secret of Allah’s saying “You will not see Me…” [Qura’n, 7:143]?! And how will he understand that that is impossible in this life with this eye that is limited to seeing directions and sides?! And how will he understand His saying: “Vision perceives Him not” [Qura’n, 6:103] side-by-side with His saying: “[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant. Looking at their Lord” [Qur’an, 75:22-23]?!

FIFTHLY:

that you do not limit yourself to capturing the lights [of the Qur’an], but also glean the appropriate conditions and effects. So, don’t read a verse except that you become adorned with its characteristics. That way, you will have a certain understanding and overall state for every verse you read. So, when mercy and the promise of forgiveness are mentioned, you become elated with happiness; when anger and harsh punishment are mentioned, you cringe and become overtaken with fear; at the mention of Allah (Glory be to Him), His Names and His Greatness, you lower your head and feel miniscule—as if you’re vanishing from witnessing His Glory; at the mention of the disbelievers, and Allah’s Exaltedness above having a son and spouse, you bow your head and lower your voice, as if hiding from shame…

These effects should also show on your limbs, as with crying out of sadness, sweating at the forehead from shame, shuddering and shivering in awe of His Glory, and feeling joy in the limbs, tongue and voice when given glad tidings, and feeling fear in them [when being warned].

If you do that, all your parts take part in receiving the barakah (blessings) of the Qura’n.

(Excerpts from Kitāb al-Arba`īn fī Usūl al-Dīn (The Book of Forty Principles of the Religion) by Imam Abu Ḥamid al-Ghazali)