The Clear Bright Path: The Prophetic Path To Presence

Tarbiyyah Series: Step 1: Capture | Step 2: Creating A Plan: Fighting Stagnation | Step 3: Actions: Being Present

Narrated Abu Darda (may Allah be pleased with him):

“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ came out to us when we were speaking of poverty and how we feared it. He said: 'Is it poverty that you fear? By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, (the delights and luxuries of) this world will come to you in plenty, and nothing will cause the heart of anyone of you to deviate except that. By Allah, I am leaving you upon something akin to a clear bright path ( Bayda') the night and day of which are the same.'” Abu Darda said: “He spoke the truth, by Allah. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ did indeed leave us upon something akin to a clear bright path ( Bayda') in which the days and nights of which were the same.” (Graded Hasan, Sunan Ibn Majah Chapter no: 1; Number 5, The Book of the Sunnah)

'Is it poverty that you fear?’

Allah states,

"The devil shows you fear of poverty and enjoins evil upon you" (2:268)

Commenting on this verse The Prophet ﷺ said: "There are two impulses in the soul, one from an angel which calls towards good and confirms truth; whoever finds this let him know it is from God and praise Him. Another impulse comes from the enemy which leads to doubt and denies truth and forbids good; whoever finds this, let him seek refuge in God from the accursed devil." Then he recited the above verse (Tirmidhi & Nisa’i).

The consequence of our fears is a more fragile mind and spiritual state, wrecked with the havoc of worries on the next paycheck, the next promotion, and the next step in our “progress”. The motivating impulse is often a deep seated fear, particularly when one has the concern of those who depend on them. What then is fear? Imam Al Ghazali relates in his famous Revival of the Sacred Sciences, “Fear is an expression for the suffering of the heart”. Fear is a by-product of indecision and doubt. In fact many of us are unaware that the products we buy, the politicians we vote for, and the propaganda we buy into employ a manipulative marketing strategy known as Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). In his post-World War classic, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill asserts that, “Fears are nothing more than states of the mind”. Hill warns the reader on the difficulty of detecting and eliminating fear, and then goes on to categorize six basic fears. Death, old age, and loss of a loved one top the list as existential concerns. He then lists ill health, criticism, and finally poverty. Conversely however, it is poverty that tops his list as the most immediate concern. This is a telling confirmation of the above stated Prophetic observation.

‘By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, (the delights and luxuries of) this world will come to you in plenty’

We find that most of us expend our time, effort, and focus on what has already been apportioned to us. As Ibn Ata Allah al-Iskandari observed in his Book of Wisdom, “You’re striving for what has already been guaranteed to you, and your remissness in what is demanded of you, are signs of the blurring of your intellect (baseera)”. Our preoccupation with the temporal world (dunya), at the cost that we falter in our religious practice, only “blurs “our ability to see the greater reality. The early generations used to say love of this world and love of the next world are like two sides of a scale; if one is heavier than one has to be lighter. A Hadith states, “if a believer runs after the world (dunya) the world keeps going away, and when the believer turns away from the world the world runs after him or her." Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah elaborated with a metaphor: “This world is like a shadow. If you try to catch it, you will never be able to do so. If you turn your back towards it, it has no choice but to follow you”. This inherent tension should not provide cover for waning in our individual, filial, or civic responsibilities. Instead as Ibn Ata Allah stated, “Rest yourself from self-direction (tadbeer), for what someone else (ghayruka) has carried out on your behalf, do not you yourself undertake to do it.”1 God is in control, and your provision has been written. Fatalistic as it may seem, the true import is that liberation from constructs that hinder our growth allows each of us to strive unfettered towards the Divine and our true selves.

‘Nothing will cause the heart of anyone of you to deviate except that’

Ibn Ashir in his “Guiding Helper” states, “Know well that the origin of [all of] these ills is love of leadership and procrastination. The fountainhead of all misdeeds is love of the fleeting world, which has no cure but to be compelled to flee to Him”.

“O soul at peace, flee to your Lord, well pleased & well-pleasing. Enter with My servants, enter into My Garden.” (89: 27-30)

“Fleeing” as it was is an action and movement. Prophetic guidance dictates, “All Actions are by their intentions”. This is a harbinger of our ability to change and alter our course. In part one of this series, “Are You Reaching Your Full Potential?”, we discussed the imperative to examine our filters and relationships, and how to learn from your experiences. Experience is borne out of past decisions and their ramifications. At the root of our decisions that propel us to action, or stagnate in our procrastination, is the purity of our intention. When we are spiritually mature are intentions become habitually pure.

'By Allah, I am leaving you upon something akin to a Clear Bright Path ( Bayda') the night and day of which are the same.'

From the Prophetic guidance we not only glean an estimate of actions, but of stations. Regardless of the alterations of daylight, or our circumstances, our spirituality remains at peace. The states of the heart strive to achieve equilibrium, with little variance, in contrast to the shifting sands of life. ‘The Clear Bright Path’ hence would be a spiritual reality borne out of reflecting upon the obligation of the moment and its duty, and to then firmly resolve to fulfill it. So the spiritual traveler is, “the son of his moment” (As-Sufi Ibn ul Waqt). If he loses it, he loses all of its benefits. For all benefits arise from the moment, if you lose it you will never again be able to go back in time. Al-Shafi’i, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “I accompanied the Sufis and did not benefit from them other than for two words, One was there saying, “Time is like a sword, if you do not cut it, it will cut you.” He mentions the other saying as being: “Your soul, if it is not kept busy with the Truth, it will busy you with falsehood”.2

This could be the best moment of your life— spiritually, in your relationships, or at work if you model your conduct (Adab) after those who succeeded (As-Saliheen) in those aspects. You have to take control of your state (Hal). It will take striving (Riyadah) to control your state. We are controlled by our rituals, not just our performance of the daily prayers. Think of your morning or workout routines for example. Those routines bear fruit. From observation, it becomes obvious that some of us work out, and some of us do not. Your life is developed by rituals (life, body, and spirit). If you do the right thing in the wrong time its results will be pain. There is a narration that states that, “Half of intellect is knowing your surroundings”; this then allows us to take proper action. Adab is doing the right thing, in the right time, in the right way, with the right intention. Know your time, your season and realize that your state will change with new rituals. We spoke about the need and benefits of creating an action plan in our previous post.

Is there a better time to worship?

Ibn Rajab Al Hanbali states in his short hadith commentary entitled al-Maḥajjah fī sayr al-duljah : sharḥ ḥadīth "lan yunajjīya aḥad min-kum ʻamaluh"

Bukhari records on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet ﷺ said, '

“Your actions alone will not save any of you.”

They asked, 'Messenger of Allah, not even you?', He replied, 'Not even me, unless, Allah were to envelop me in His mercy. Be firm; steadfast and balanced; and journey [to Allah] in the beginning of the day, the end of the day, and a portion of the latter part of the night. Moderation, moderation! Through this you will attain your goal!"

He also recorded this hadith in another place with the wording, 'This religion is easy, none makes it hard upon himself except that it overwhelms him; therefore be firm, steadfast, and balanced; upon which have glad tidings! Seek help in this by journeying [to Allah] at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, and a portion of the latter part of night.'

These times are optimal, and include our long morning and evening commutes to the office filled with the blaring of the radio and traffic reports. I guarantee that most if not all the Prophetic remembrances (adkhar) can be read on our way to/from work, or running errands. Most of us do not have the luxury of waiting for a time when we can do our meditations in an environment of our making (lit candles, the wafting smoke of incense, and the serene silence of our thoughts). We have to be realistic with our scenario and implement practices within the world we live in, and not one we only imagine.

If at times you find yourself struggling to focus while saying the dhikr, try this tip from Sports Psychology prior to undertaking your new rituals and remembrances (adhkar): Ask yourself, “ If you wanted to be proud (not vain pride), what would you be proud of? Your profession? Education?, your children, your spouse, a moment of courage, taking a risk?. How do you breathe when you let yourself be proud? How do you feel? What are you focusing on that makes you be filled with gratitude? What could you get excited about? The point: Focus is controlled by questions, and if you instill this ritual of Muraqabah and Muhasabah (asking deep questions) you will reap the benefits of Dhikr more readily.

“Those who believe and whose hearts find tranquility in the remembrance of Allah, verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find tranquility.” (13: 28)

Tranquility is the immediate benefit of following the “Clear Bright Path” of the Sage and Prophet, Muhammad Al Mustafa (ﷺ. His instructions and spiritual states allow each of us the ability to find balance and solace in the remembrance of Allah.

1.The Book of Wisdoms by Imam Taj ad-Din Abul Fadl Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Karim ibn 'Ata'illah al-Judhami al-Maliki al-Iskandari (d. 709/1309).

2. Ibn Al-Qayyim Al Da’ Wa’l-Dawa (p.239) trans from Abu Aaliyah Surkheel Sharif’s “The Exquistite Pearl” The Jawziyyah Press.


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