"And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers."
(Al-Quran 51:55)

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Emptying the Vessel (Part One)

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Before you can fill any vessel, you must first empty it. The heart is a vessel. And like any vessel, the heart too must be emptied - before it can be filled. One can never hope to fill the heart with Allah, so long as that vessel is full of other than Him.

To empty the heart does not mean to not love. On the contrary, true love, as Allah intended it, is purest when it is not based on a false attachment.

The process of first emptying the heart can be found at the beginning half of the shahada (the declaration of faith). Notice that the declaration of faith begins with a critical negation, a critical emptying.

Before we hope to reach true tawheed (true monotheism), before we can assert our belief in the one Lord, we first assert: La ilaha (There is no God) There is no illah.

An illah is an object of worship. But it is imperative to understand that an illah is not just something we pray to. An illah is what we revolve our life around, what we obey and what is of utmost importance to us - above all else.

It is something that we live for - and cannot live without.

So, every person - atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Christian, Jew - has an illah. Everyone worships something. For most people, that object of worship is something from this worldly life, the dunya.

Some people worship wealth, some worship status, some worship fame, some worship their own intellect. Some people worship other people. And, many as the Quran describes, worship their own selves, their own desires and whims. Allah says:


Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded?

These objects of worship are things to which we become attached. However, an object of attachment is not just something that we love. It is something that we need, in the deepest sense of the word. 

It is something that if lost, causes absolute devastation. If there is anything - or anyone - other than Allah that we could never give up, then we have a false attachment. 

Why was the Prophet Ibrahim (as) told to sacrifice his son? It was to free him. It was to free him from a false attachment. Once he was free, his object of love (not attachment) was given back to him.

If there is anything - or anyone - that losing would absolutely break us, we have a false attachment. False attachments are things that we fear losing almost to a pathological extent. It is something that if we even sense is drifting away, we will desperately pursue.

We chase it because losing an object of attachment causes complete devastation, and the severity of that devastation is proportional to the degree of attachment.

These attachments can be to money, our belongings, other people, an idea, physical pleasure, a drug, status symbols, our careers, our image, how others view us, our physical appearance or beauty, the way we dress or appear to others, our degrees, our job titles, our sense of control, or our own intelligence and rationality.

But, until we can break these false attachments, we cannot empty the vessel of our heart. And if we do not empty that vessel, we cannot truly fill it with Allah.

(Yasmin Mogahed)


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