Spiritual Training During Blessed Three Months
Reprinted from Islam, February 1992
We are all transitory in this world; everyone will drink the elixir of death and pass on through the door of the grave.
We know the existence of and unity of Allah who has created the universe in this wonderful shape and order, and we believe with complete faith and certainty. He is the giver of innumerable blessings and creator of every kind of beauty--the earth, the stars, the skies, atoms, matter, spirit, our world, the next world, life, death, trees, flowers, birds and insects.
Man's first and foremost duty is to find Him; to know, respect and love Him; to obey Him and to give thanks and praise for His blessings, benevolence and bounty.
Allah forgives every kind of crime, sin, mistake, fault and deficiency, but he never forgives those who know Him incorrectly. Those who worship the cross, idols, totems, statues, the moon, the sun, the stars, mountains, trees, cows or oxen -- any kind of weak, insignificant, transitory creature -- will be punished eternally for their beliefs and will be destroyed in eternal torment and punishment.
How should Allah be worshipped and obeyed? What are His prohibitions and commands? What kind of servant does He want us to be, and what should we do?
He informed us of these by means of the prophets --those blessed men and noble and honorable ambassadors such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (greetings and salutations upon them).
Which of these prophets should we conform to? Of course, the last one -- Muhammad (pbuh). Because this prophet closes the era of the previous prophets and begins a new era. The latest decrees nullify the former ones and take their places. History, custom, religion, art, intelligence, reason, conscience and wisdom demand this.
We must obey and worship Allah, but He doesn't accept every act of worship. For example, all that the unbelievers and hypocrites do is a scattered waste--unwelcome, unacceptable and rejected.
Also the worship of believers can become unacceptable, perverse and void for a number of reasons. For example, there is no salat without purification; speaking during the salat invalidates it; pilgrimage with unlawful money is unacceptable; worship and good works done without good intention, sincerity and piety are not acceptable.
According to one hadith, there are many readers of the Qur'an whom the Qur'an damns. There are many people for whom salat only serves to separate them from Allah. There are many people for whom fasting is nothing but a state of hunger and thirst.
Also there is the danger of merit earned for worship being wiped out by bad personality traits. Our prophet informed us that envy destroys all good works just as fire burns up wood and leaves only ashes in its place. Charity and alms which are given as a favor, reproachfully or with annoyance to the poor become unacceptable and earn no merit.
Thus we absolutely must learn which reasons will prevent our worship from being accepted., avoid hypocrisy at all costs, be sincere and pious and keep our hearts and intentions pure. We must raise our morality, become free of bad traits, and acquire good habits.
The name of the branch of Islamic learning that teaches all this is Tasawwuf (True Sufism). Sufi training, spiritual training, moral training, training of the heart--without these we cannot be good Muslims, our worship cannot be accepted, and Allah's approval and love can't be gained.
A Muslim who has not been trained well will not be of benefit to himself nor to Islam. He will cause harm in the world and the hereafter. A good sword can't be made from bad iron; victory can't be gained with bad soldiers.
Therefore you should give the seriousness that true Sufism demands and complete your moral training and the training of your heart and spirit. Try to be a perfect human being so that you can attain respect, honor, and happiness in this world and the next.
The three months, Rajab, Sha'ban, and Ramadan, are a very appropriate and blessed season for this. May Allah (His Glory be exalted) include us among those who will profit from the prosperity of this glorious season.