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

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Emptying the Vessel - Part Two

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Gracious

This struggle to free one's heart from all false attachments, the struggle to empty the vessel of the heart, is the greatest struggle of earthly life. That struggle is the essence of tauheed (true monotheism). And so you will see that, if examined deeply, all five pillars of Islam are essentially about and enable detachment:

1. Shahadah (Declaration of Faith): The declaration of faith is the verbal profession of the very detachment we seek to achieve - that the only object of our worship, ultimate devotion, love, fears and hope is Allah. And Allah alone. To succeed at freeing oneself from all other attachments, except the attachment to the Creator, is the truest manifestation of tauheed.

2. Salah (Five Daily Prayers): Five times a day, we must pull away from the world to focus on our Creator and ultimate purpose. Five times a day, we detach ourselves from whatever we are doing of worldly life, and turn to Allah. 

Prayer could have been prescribed only once a day or week, or all five prayers could have been done at one time each day. But it is not. The prayers are spread throughout the day. If one keeps to their prayers at their specified times, there is no opportunity to get attached.

As soon as we begin to become engrossed in whatever worldly matter we are involved in, we are forced to detach from it and turn our focus to the only true object of attachment.

3. Siyaam (Fasting): Fasting is all about detachment. It is the detachment from food, drink, intercourse and vain speech. By restraining our physical self, we ennoble, purify and exalt our spiritual self. Through fasting, we are forced to detach ourselves from our physical needs, desires and pleasures.

4. Zakah (Charity): Zakah is about detaching ourselves from our money and giving it for the sake of Allah. By giving it away, we are forced to break our attachment to wealth.

5. Hajj (Pilgrimage): Hajj is one of the most comprehensive and profound acts of detachment. A pilgrim leaves behind everything in his life. He gives up his family, his home, his salary, his warm bed, his comfortable shoes and expensive clothes, all in exchange for sleeping on the ground or in a crowded tent and wearing only two simple pieces of cloth. There are no status symbols on Hajj. 

Realize that Allah, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, does not just ask us to be detached from the world - He tells us exactly how. Beyond the five pillars, even our dress breeds detachment.

The Prophet (saw) tells us to distinguish ourselves, to be different from the crowd, even in how we appear. By wearing your hijab or having a beard, you can't just blend in - even if you wanted to.

The Prophet (saw) said, "Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers".

By being "strange" to this world, we can live in it, without being of it. And it is through that detachment that we can empty the vessel of our heart in preparation for that which nourishes it and gives it life. 

By emptying our heart, we can prepare for its true nourishment: Allah.


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