The most comprehensive goal for a Muslim is the single-minded desire to attain Paradise. This desire to seek Paradise is a life-long process which can be sparked in a moment- and this desire will provide the means and the momentum to reach the goal.
Your model for self-development is that of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In your quest for Paradise, you must personally take charge of your responsibilities, develop the willpower to perform and make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations, ensure that you make the best use of your time and adopt a balanced approach to life.
Islam does not subscribe to the type of asceticism where we purify our hearts and yet remain immersed in political, economic or social corruption. Tazkiyah must encompass our entire life – the privacy of our thoughts as well as their social manifestations in our daily life. Everything must be in conformity with Allah’s will.
This will of God also requires you to seek and maintain a delicate balance between the various obligations that demand your attention; between your obligations to Allah, your obligations towards others and your obligations towards yourself The Prophet advised us against extremism of any kind. It is reported that he said to `Abdullah ibn `Amr:
“Have I heard right that you fast every day and stand in prayer all night?” `Abdullah replied, “Yes, O Messenger of God.” The Prophet said, “Do not do that. Fast, as well as eat and drink. Stand in prayer, as well as sleep. For your body has a right upon you, your eyes have a right upon you, your wife has a right upon you, and your guest has a right upon you”. (Bukhari & Muslim)
Unless you approach tazkiyah as an all-embracing process, you will find that your life is compartmentalized, certain parts impeding the development of others. This can only result in a life of disharmony and unhappiness.
Approached as a comprehensive and all-embracing process, however, you will find that each part of your life will complement some other part. This should, God willing, make your struggle on the path to God and Janna, easier and full of grace.
As you struggle to make headway on the path to God, always remember that you have an excellent example before you. This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Often we would like to emulate our sports heroes, our parents, our teachers, our friends or others who attract our attention. For your spiritual development, however, the most beautiful example is that of the Prophet. Allah says in the Qur’an:
You have, indeed, in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar, whoever places his hopes in God and the Final Days and who remembers Allah much. (Al-Ahzab 33: 21)
The Ultimate Goal
The decision to purify and develop yourself requires that you clearly define the path and consider the ways and means to achieve Paradise. This whole process will not only purify your heart, but also affect your entire life and the will of Allah will become so much easier for you to follow.
Following the Divine Will is, of course, tazkiyah itself, soon, all your efforts will be directed towards the ultimate goal – the pleasure of Allah and Paradise:
Know that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness, and forgiveness is a sure way to Paradise. As you strive to better yourself, then, simultaneously and continuously pray for forgiveness for all your shortcomings. God says: And whoever repents and believes and works righteous deeds, God changes evil deeds into good ones, and God is Ever-Forgiving, Merciful. (Al-Furqan 25:70)
It is a misconception to believe that simply by setting up Paradise as the ultimate goal, one can get there without any further effort. It is also a misconception that Paradise can solely be achieved by concentrating only on certain aspects of life, the ‘religious and the spiritual’.
The very fact that Paradise is the ultimate objective means that tazkiyah must be pursued in all aspects of life, and in life as a whole. Consider, for example, the following:
– Is not honesty a means to enter Paradise?
– Will not a sense of responsibility enable me to enter Paradise?
– Will not striving to fulfill the needs of fellow human beings make me deserve Paradise?
– Will not abstaining from vain talk and aimless actions, bring me closer to Paradise?
– Is not consciousness of the best use of my time a key to Paradise?
– Will not keeping promises and offering salah on time, which are distinguishing traits of the righteous, put me on the highway to Paradise?
– Must not all of the above be sought to attain Paradise?
Every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyah.
In sha’ Allah (God-willing), if you take heed of all the prerequisites, blessings and benefits of tazkiya, you will surely find the right environment, the true companionship and brotherhood and the most appropriate training programs to make the task of self-development easier and more rewarding.
So give the good news to My servants who listen to the word [of God], then follow the beauty in it. Such are they whom God has guided And such are they who are endowed with understanding. (Az-Zumar 39: 17-18)
Through the Guidance of God
Remember that every effort that is legitimate and is aimed at attaining Paradise is also an integral part of the process of tazkiyah and that every sin can be effaced through forgiveness – and that forgiveness is the sure way to Paradise.
And as for the one who fears to stand before his Lord and who restrains himself from base desires, the Garden is surely the abode. (An-Nazi`at 79: 40-41)
May Allah enable us to be among those who purify themselves for it is “God Who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity; and none shall be wronged by as much as the husk of a date stone” (An-Nisaa’ 4: 49).
Were it not for God’s favor upon you and His grace, not one of you would ever have remained pure. For it is God who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity: for God is all-Hearing all-Knowing. (An-Nur 24:21)
The article is excerpted from the author’s book “In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development”.