Activism and spirituality symbolize the wings by which those yearning for Allah seek flight. Nevertheless, if one is going to soar, he must ensure that both wings are functioning and operating together as a cohesive unit. Muslims in Western countries struggle to attain this balance and, in some cases, have fallen into one of two extremes: monasticism or materialism.
The former is denounced by Allah who says,
But the monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them: We commanded only seeking the good pleasure of Allah. (Quran 57:27)
At the same time the fragile reality of the material world is exposed by the Quran. Men and women of understanding are challenged to see through the futility of its promises:
The likeness of the life of the present is as the rain which We send down from the skies. By its mingling arises the produce of the earth, which provides food for men and animals. It grows till the earth is clad with its golden ornaments and is decked out in beauty — the people to whom it belongs think they have all powers of disposal over it. Then reaches it Our command by night or by day, and We make it like a harvest clean-mown, as if it had never flourished. (Quran 10:24)
Therefore, the true believer is not one who shuns the worldly life, but addresses it. He does not surrender to its pleasures, but controls them. For that reason Imam Ahmad was asked if a person who possessed 100,000 dirhams could be an ascetic. His response was, “As long as the money is in his hand and not his heart.”
As Muslims wrestle with the articulation of Islam in the Western context, it is important to realize that Islamic spirituality has certain qualities which distinguish it and make it unique. Let us take some time to focus on some of them.
1. Comprehensive. The program of spiritual exercise set out by Islam does not merely address one aspect of human existence. Rather, it seeks to touch upon all aspects of life: spiritual, physical, individual, and social. The relationship with Allah carries over into one’s daily life, improving it; creating a person who is a better father, mother,coworker and citizen. It is not a process that solely focuses on a few spiritual exercises. Rather, one’s ability to interact and bring benefit to his community represents the brightest ray that shines from an illuminated heart. This comprehensive understanding is mentioned by Allah (swt) when He describes the objectives of Prophethood:
We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our Signs, purifying you, and instructing you in Scripture and Wisdom, and in what you did not know. (Quran 2:151)
Commenting on the statement, “And purifying you” Ibn Kathir explained, “Purifying you from corrupt morals, the impurities of the soul and foolish actions.” (Tafsir ibn Kathir)
2. Practical. Although one will find challenges on the way towards building and maintaining one’s spiritual state, there should be nothing on this path that makes attaining this relationship impossible. Referring to this Allah (swt) says,
Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty. (Quran 2:185)
Allah desires that He should make light your burdens, and man is created weak. (Quran 4:28)
For this reason, it is sad to see some falling into acts of radicalism and deviance when seeking the spiritual path. Unnecessary burdens, extreme acts of hardship, exaggerated infatuations with technicalities, and complete ignorance of the human condition do not represent the true divine teachings. In fact, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم always kept things in the realm of the plausible and encouraged his followers to do the same. Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrates, “Whenever Allah’s Apostle ordered the Muslims to do something, he used to order them to perform deeds which were easy for them to do, according to their endurance.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 19.)
3. Contemporary. If one were to glance at the large number of books and CD covers, advertisements for conferences and lectures in the West, one would be hard-pressed to find an image that does not reflect some aspect of our historical past. Although familiarity with one’s past is the means to developing a healthy future, I would like to see Muslims going to work with a skyscraper backdrop, mothers taking children to school or a group of young Muslims playing football. Our past has become opium. A means, if you will, of not dealing with the present. Although we can revel in our historical glory, the realities of making it to work or school on time, raising young children and functioning in a trans-modern world will not go away. Allah (swt) completed our faith, perfected it, and sent the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم as a continuous mercy for the ages. The method of spirituality employed by our faith enables us to address and meet the realities of the daily grind. Racing to work, suffering through finals, and the hardships of present-day life are easily addressed through the works and thoughts of contemporary scholars. Thus, it is important for Muslims, while maintaining an important bond with their historical legacy, to contextualize their spiritual aims with the reality of life that they live in.
The work before you represents an important contribution towards achieving the above mentioned points. The author simplified the process of spiritual purification and centered it around two important principles: sound knowledge and sound practice. It is hoped that this work will quench the thirst that many of our young Muslim brothers and sisters in the West have for drawing nearer to Allah. I would like to congratulate the translator of this important work and pray that Allah will continue to bless her, her husband and their daughter.
MAS Youth presents this book as a gift to the many young and old who have experienced an awakening in recent years. It is our hope that the new generations of Muslims in the West will be able to present a clear, balanced and beneficial message to their fellow citizens. I pray that Allah will bless those who read this book, make it a proof for them and allow us to drink from the blessed hands of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.
One in need of Allah’s mercy,
Suhaib D. Webb
October 12, 2006