How Do I Care for My Soul? Part One

Part One | Part Two

The following is a transcript of a khutba by Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui. It contains minor modifications from the spoken word for ease of readability.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, who created us and knows our nature better than we do, desires for us that we know and understand our nature. And He desires for us a condition in which we consistently change.

Islam, indeed, is not about “to be”; it is about “to become.” That is why it is well-established in our deen that if my moment-now is the same as my moment-ago, or if my today is the same as my yesterday, then I am a deprived person. This teaching is even attributed in some texts to Rasulullah .

Our Human Value is Based on Our Spiritual Reality

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in the Quran, and in so many ways, identified our nature for us when He subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us about the early human genesis and how He originally created the human being. He says,

﴾﴿ وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِّن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُونٍ ﴿﴾ فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ

Behold! Thy Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create man, from sounding clay from mud molded into shape. So when I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, lay yourselves prostrate to him." [Surat al-Hijr, 15:28-29]

This basically teaches us about Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala creating the human being. We understand it as a process from our dimension, but really Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala does not need a process; He is not subject to time or causality. He created the human from clinging, dry clay whose origin is stinking mud. That's our physical, material reality. Only when Allah says, "and breathed into him of My Spirit (ruḥ)" does He order the angels to lay themselves prostrate. Only after that ruḥ is breathed into that material body does He order that. [We understand this] without any imagining (keif) about how He breathed of His Spirit, for it is way beyond our comprehension.

Only when the ruḥ was breathed in did the human being become one distinguished, by the grace of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, to have the angels lay themselves prostrate. Angels, whose origin is nūr (light)! Therefore, the value of the human being is not on account of his or her physical reality or material origin, nor therefore material pursuits. But the value of a human being, as this ayah and many other indicate, is based on his/her rauḥani (soul-like, spiritual) dimension. That’s what makes us especially human, and worthy – Allahu Akbar – of having the angels lay themselves prostrate.

As a human being, I am bound by such texts and other more explicit texts, to look at everything of my life (material, intellectual, psychological etc.) in an envelope of my spiritual reality. All my experience of life: material experience, intellectual experience, psychological and emotional experience. I must understand and live them all within the envelope of my spiritual reality, because that is what identifies me as a spiritual human being.

1. Monitor the Internal Heart

This spiritual nature/dimension that Allah emphasizes – how to do I care for it? How do I care for that? I would say first, from the Quran and Sunnah, that I should observe, be mindful, and monitor the internal moods, changes, stirring, emotions, drives, conditions inside of me. I monitor them. Constantly. Murāqabatu khawāṭir qalbi [observing the voices/movements of my heart].

And this needs struggle. And work. And work. And more work. So that, simply, as was beautifully said by earlier teachers (may Allah be pleased with them all),

التقوى أن لا يجدني الله حيث نهاني ، ولا يفقدني حيثأمرني

Allah should not – must not – find me where He prohibited me to be, and He must not miss me where He ordered me to be.

This is usually mentioned in the context of external conduct and behavior. But now I am emphasizing in the spiritual reality and the internal dimension: that inside of me and you, we must monitor those conditions. So that our feelings, emotions, drives, priorities, desires, hopes, loves, hates, internal conditions are such that we are not in a hāl (state/condition) that Allah does not love. Constantly I must strive to do that.

My internal dimension (to be the “spirit-me”), means that inside of me I must not entertain or allow feelings or emotions that are inconsistent with what He loves. Misplaced hate. Misplaced anger. Misplaced arrogance, delusion, ostentation. Conceitedness. Lack of contentment, contentment. Love for leadership. Violent envy. And so on. Inside of us.

This idea I summon and this I say —we do not emphasize at all. We might have a high I.Q. but we have a very low “S.Q.” We might have a very high I.Q. and know how to solve math, engineering, and practical problems. We might know how settle political issues and be brilliant political activists – all of that is depictive of a high I.Q., but we could be at the same time very low in our S.Q. They still have not identified nor invented the S.Q, it’s just our plausibility argument. [It stands for] “spiritual quotient,” which we have given up.

When Rasulullah was asked, “What is Islam?” he first replied, “To lovingly surrender your heart (qalb) to Allah Most High.”

Rasulullah also said, just to emphasize that we must monitor what we are internally all the time and constantly through a gradual, evolutionary, developmental approach, “You must know that imān and shuḥ (internal greed which may or may not be expressed as bukhl (external greed)) can never be joined together in the heart of a servant of Allah ta’ala” [Nasa’i, Ḥakam]. That’s a condition of the heart.

He also said in part of a longer hadith, “Imān and ḥasad (internally violent envy that stirs anger, high tempers, and restlessness) do not exist at the same time in the heart of a servant of Allah ‘azza wa jall.”

2. Be of the Few Who Guard the Tongue

My brothers and sisters, I think the first most essential parameter is to constantly strive to monitor what we are inside. What will help us do that is to guard our tongue. Second is to guard and monitor the tongue. Most of us do not monitor or guard our tongues; both scholars and less than scholars among us. We ask Allah for His pardoning and well-being. Rasulullah said to Mu’adh (may Allah be pleased with him), “What else besides the harvests of people’s tongues drags them on their nostrils into the fire of Hell?” The tongues contribute to making the heart worse in its ailments. As Rasulullah said in a hadith deemed authentic by many of the scholars, “Beware from speaking much without dhikr of Allah ‘azza wa jall, for much speaking without dhikr of Allah ‘azza wa jall hardens the heart. And the most remote person from Allah is a person with a hard heart.”

Monitor our tongues. And few us, few of us, few of us, are those who do that. Speaking has become something very modern and very sought after. We have talk shows where we are paid hundreds of thousands and millions just to talk. And we have borrowed this characteristic; it’s not necessary.

Modernity has many beautiful things. But not everything, just because it’s modern and new, do we embrace. There are moral constants. And there are variables.

To be continued in Part 2