by Suhaib Webb
To recap from last time, we noted, as mentioned by Imam al-Maqdisi, four ways to uncover one’s mistakes:
- Taking a trustworthy sheikh as a guide.
- Having sincere friends who can remind you.
- Benefiting from the words of your enemies.
- Mixing with people.
Tonight we address the following:
- The proper approach towards desires
- The signs of good character
- The condition related to training the soul
- Cutting off two important desires (eating and sexual relations)
- The dangers of the tongue
Imam al-Maqdisi mentions that desires serve a noble purpose when kept in check (which means they are permissible and acted on in a permissible fashion). What is discouraged by Islam is overindulgence. He adds that taking time out to enjoy the blessings of this life is something encouraged if it will enhance one’s relationship with Allah, noting that this was the way of the Prophet ﷺ who used to eat sweet meat, enjoy nice perfumes and love honey. He has harsh words for those who went to extremes in avoiding the delights of this world stating,
“What is looked down upon (in Islam) are the overindulgences. Most people fail to grasp this, leaving everything that the soul desires. This is a form of oppressing the soul by denying it its rights. The soul has guaranteed rights as noted by the Prophet ﷺ who said, ‘Indeed, your soul has a right upon you.’ There were some who said, ‘I will leave such and such thing for a year.’ This is an extreme method for trying to curb the desires and contradicts the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ…the only time such things should be abandoned is if obtaining them proofs difficult, or if one fears that obtaining them will take him away form worship…partaking of them from time to time to strengthen the soul is like the treatment of a doctor to his patient – it is praiseworthy and not rebuked, and there is nothing wrong with being kind to one’s soul if it strengthens it.”
Signs of Good Character
Al-Maqdisi notes that some fail to understand good character in its complete context, assuming that it implies simply repenting from sins and leaving evil. He adds to that the qualities of the believers in the Qur’an (see 8: 2-4 and 9:112).
Conditions for Training the Soul
Imam al-Maqdisi notes three important conditions:
- Raising the curtain between the slave and Allah by repenting and leaving sins.
- Having a Sheikh who can guide one through the perilous sea which one must swim to be successful.
Disciplining Two Major Desires: Food and Sexual Relations
Imam al-Maqdisi wrote, “The desire for food is from the most destructive desires, and, because of it, Adam was expelled from Paradise. It is a cause for the desires of the sex and wealth, ultimately leading to a host of destructive qualities.”
Introducing the Dangers of the Tongue
Before engaging the topic, Imam al-Maqdisi notes that the only way to really survive the dangers of the tongue is silence.
Abu Darda (ra) said, “Exercise justice between your ears and your mouth. The only reason you were blessed with one mouth and two ears is so you could listen more than you speak.”
The Dangers of the Tongue
1. Speaking about what does not concern you.
2. To be engrossed in falsehood.
3. Talking about explicit subjects in an explicit manner.
5. With regards to jesting, the Imam notes 3 important conditions:
- It should be the truth.
- It should be with the right people.
- It should be the exception, not the norm.
6. Mocking others.
7. Spreading Secrets.
Note, for each point alone, an important explanation and discussion took place and is recorded on the actual lectures. I encourage our dear brothers and sisters to listen to them and pay careful attention.