Referencing chapter 2, verse 183 of the Quran, SHAIKH SA’DULLAH KHAN writes that attaining taqwa is the primary objective of fasting during the month of Ramadaan.
‘TAZKIYAH’ in the Arabic language implies purification, growth, advancement and to bring the self to the height of excellence.
The highest level of such excellence is to reach nobility in the estimation of the Divine, as Allah states, ‘The most honourable of all in the sight of Allah are those with the highest degree of taqwa.’ (Quran 49:13)
Attaining taqwa (piety/ Allah-consciousness) is in fact the primary objective of fasting the month of Ramadaan. ‘O you who proclaim faith! Fasting has been prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, in order that you may attain taqwa.’ (Quran 2:183)
We note that tazkiyah and taqwa are interconnected. Allah cautions, ‘Do not ascribe purity or righteousness to yourself, only Allah knows those who are pious.’ (Quran 53:32)
A well-known duah or supplication of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) combines the notion of purity with piety: ‘O Allah, grant my soul its capacity for piety and purify my self. You are the best to purify it as You are its guardian and its protector.’ (Sahih Muslim)
So, tazkiyah is integral to the pursuit of taqwa, and eventual success for any individual comes from treading the path of purification of the self.
Tazkiya-tun-nafs (cleansing of the self) is an essential feature in human development and focuses on the purification of the self from all negative and evil tendencies that may arise.
It includes purification from weaknesses in human inclination as well as purification from negative aspects that could appeal to our desires and lead us to impropriety.
Treading the spiritual path, on the other hand, is manifested not in renouncing the world but rather in renouncing those negative traits that arise due to greed, envy, hatred, selfishness, egoism and arrogance.
Tazkiyah is a resolute commitment to a personal process of self-correction, moral advancement and spiritual goodness.
We should realise that being spiritually sound necessitates being morally good; and goodness (ihsaan) emanates from husn-niyyah (sincere intention), husn-zann (positive consideration), husn-al-khuluq (good character) and amal-us-salih (righteous deeds).
A person who is spiritually developed is expected to harbour good intentions, have a clean heart and manifest a positive attitude, an endearing personality while always displaying exemplary behaviour.
The spiritual dimension of the self is enlivened by giving attention and expression to those positive qualities that emanate from the best inner promptings of the nafs (soul) and the qalb (heart).
Spirituality thus entails the developing of a heightened level of Allah-consciousness coupled with an increased dedication to the cultivation of a spirit of righteousness. It is a process of ascending levels of awareness by organising one’s journey through life in intimate communion with the Divine, ever aware that ‘from Him we come and unto Him is our ultimate return’, and realising that manifesting ihsaan (goodness) throughout our lives is eventually what matters most.
We should, therefore, fervently aim to develop the (fada’il) virtues of sincerity, honesty, gratitude, patience, generosity, simplicity, humility, magnanimity and compassion.
In this special month of Ramadaan, the month of high intensity moral development and spiritual rejuvenation, let us make a commitment to cleanse our hearts and minds of all base thoughts and destructive emotions, beliefs and concepts.
This is only possible if we guard our organs of tongue, stomach, ears, eyes, hands, feet and mind of all sins, both outward and inward.
Let us rid ourselves of diseases such as pride, jealousy, malice, ill-feeling, backbiting, anger, self-righteousness, dishonesty, pretension, vanity, selfishness, vainglory, revenge, obsessive love of the world, manipulation of power and abuse of Allah’s favours.
We could, through tazkiyah, pursue the pathways to taqwa and, perchance, attain spiritual fulfilment in the context of an ever-challenging modern life. An improved self certainly contributes to a better world or at least to a better self.
- Shaikh Sa’dullah Khan is CEO: Islamia College, in Cape Town.