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Measuring Our Spiritual Purification
Dr Farhad Shafti


“Measurement” is not always easy, especially if what is measured is intangible. How can we measure the degree of our tazkiyah (spiritual purification) in the path of God? It is easy to think that we are very good, or very bad in terms of tazkiyah, however this is all very subjective and does not give us any real perspective on our strengths and weaknesses.

In fact, we can use some measures in order to assess how “good” we really are in this. Here, four important measures are described:

1. How keen are we in doing our prayers? Do we find our prayers boring or are they enjoyable? What are the things that occupy our minds while we pray? Perhaps, a clue to improving our spirituality is in recognizing these things. The extent to which we enjoy our prayers and look forward to them can be an indication of how much we have managed to purify our soul in the path of God.

2. As Muslims, we know a lot about concepts like trusting in God, leaving things to Him, etc. One of the main points of all worship we do is to be good at these. How do we perform in practice when we come across an apparently worrying or stressful situation? Do our actions indicate that in reality, we do not really believe in someone up there who takes care of things for us, or do they indicate a true belief in a being looking after us? These situations are the best opportunities to look right inside our heart (our spirit), to get an idea of how far we have come in the path of tazkiyah and to diagnose weaknesses in our beliefs and actions, aiming to do our best to rectify them.

3. How do we spend our time when we are alone? Let us imagine a very close friend that we cannot wait to be alone with, as his/her company is so enjoyable. Do we enjoy the company of God when we are alone with Him and no one else is there to interrupt? In fact, do we even realize that He is there and we can never be alone? It seems quite easy to be mindful of God and to get engaged in His remembrance when we are in the company of others. In the best scenario, this is because being in the company of the God-fearing, or at least God-aware people, encourages us to remember the Lord. In the worst scenario, this is because we like showing off. However the real test and therefore the real measurement tool is when we are alone and have some time available to spend as we wish. In that situation, do we spend the time in disobeying God, or do we spend it in ignoring him? Or do we spend at least some of the available time “with Him?”

4. How much of our spiritual energy is spent on dealing with “anger”, “taking offence easily”, “worrying”, “jealousy”, “being suspicious of others”, “being pessimistic” and so on? Each of these is an indication of a defect in our soul and deserves special attention. The person who is in the path of tazkiyah has such a big heart, such clear thought and such passion to move on in this path that he will rarely become angry for a personal reason and will hardly become offended by a fellow human being. Likewise, he does not go to extremes in worrying about and over-analyzing his worldly affairs, for he appreciates the purpose of his life, he is aware of the fact that he is a servant of God and that everything happens under the control of the One who knows everything and is all Wise.

For such a person, feeling jealousy is one of the most shameful and disappointing weaknesses that requires immediate rectification. The beauty and peace that arises due to being in the path of tazkiyah brings about a generally positive and optimistic spirit to the person that it never allows him to be suspicious of others. In addition, others find it to be a pleasure to be around him due to his enjoyable personality and in particular his optimistic (but not unrealistic) perspective of life and the affairs of life.

Each of the above mentioned spiritual defects could be significantly influential in damaging a person’s efforts in the path of tazkiyah. On the other hand, the degree to which a person has been successful in avoiding these spiritual defects is a fair indication of his or her success in tazkiyah. This of course does not mean that only these four measures are influential in our spiritual purification.



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