Overcoming them may be made easier by a good early grasp of the prerequisites of tazkiyah (purification). These are as follows:
Tazkiyah: Your Personal Responsibility
You must accept that tazkiyah is a highly personal process and that it demands taking personal responsibility for carrying it forward. You can only see the results of tazkiyah through your own realization, your own personal efforts and your own exertions.
No one else can perform tazkiyah for you. No organization, no leader and no teacher can replace your own responsibility. God says:
And no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden; and if one weighed down by his load calls upon (another) to help bear carry it nothing thereof may be carried (by that other), even if it be one’s near of kin. (Fatir 35:18)
This sense of personal responsibility is basic to the whole purpose and approach of Islam. Ultimately, we are judged individually for discharging our own responsibilities. If someone else fulfills your obligations, then it should be he that is rewarded, not you. To be rewarded you must do what is expected of you by Allah by yourself:
Whoever strives hard in God’s cause does so only for his own good: for, verily, God does not stand in need of anything in all the worlds! And as for those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds, We shall most certainly efface their bad deeds, and shall most certainly reward them in accordance with the best that they ever did. (Al-`Ankabut 29:6-7)
Some people allow themselves to be dictated by others. The Qur’an states that the weak will say on the Day of Judgment that they were coerced into following the dictates of others, but that Allah will reply that the excuse is not legitimate for the decision to deviate from the Straight Path was their own.
Who set up another god beside Allah: Throw him into a severe penalty. His Companion will say: ‘Our Lord! I did not make him transgress, but he was (himself) far astray.’ He will say: “Dispute not with each other in My Presence: I had already in advance sent you Warning”. (Qaf 50:26-28)
Even Satan will stand up on the Day of Judgment saying: ”I invited you and you responded to me, so don’t blame me, blame yourselves“ (Ibrahim 14:22). Ultimately, then, the blame and the reward will be yours, because the responsibility was yours:
On that Day all people will come forward, cut off from one another, to be shown their deeds. And so, he who shall have done an atom’s weight of good shall behold it; and he who shall have done an atom’s weight of evil, shall behold it. (Az-Zalzalah 99:6-8)
Taking charge of your own affairs may certainly seem a daunting task, but one which you will accomplish with distinction if you appreciate and take advantage of the tremendous human potential that Allah has blessed you with. Allah says in the Qur’an:
Verily, We created man in the best conformation, and thereafter We reduced him to the lowest of the low – excepting only such as attain to faith and do good works: and theirs shall be a reward unending! (At-Tin 95:4-6)
True Success… True Faith
Tazkiyah does not consist simply of ideas, but of life, behavior and conduct. The key to success, according to the Qur’an, lies in having true faith.
To inculcate true faith you must start by acquiring a sound knowledge of Islam through a dedicated study of the Qur’an and Sunnah. You must then translate your knowledge into practice. For this to occur, you need to have firm resolve and determination. This, in turn, will produce righteous conduct.
To aid you in your task, you must seek the company of those who are also striving to please Allah. They will encourage you towards righteousness and correct you when you deviate from the true Path.
Your company also includes your mental and psychological company- the ideas you entertain, the ambitions you nurture, the sensitivities and sensibilities you develop and the books you read.
All of these represent a form of company because they are your companions in solitude.
In order to succeed, you must have a deep desire to make a genuine effort to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim:
But as for those who strive hard in Our cause – We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold God is indeed with the doers of good. (Al-`Ankabut 29:69)
With desire, of course, come actions. But know that it is not solely the results of your endeavors that count; what matters most is that you made your best effort.
This is a very important point to appreciate because without genuine effort nothing can happen. Those who think that prayer alone can work miracles are not living in a realistic world. Prayers are part of the effort, but prayers are not the whole answer.
If you pray, ”Allah! Guide me and make me good”, it is not going to bring you any benefit unless you are also determined to become good and make an effort towards becoming good.
Once you have done the latter two things, then, of course, prayer will be a source of barakah or divine grace that will further inspire and strengthen your efforts. The initial desire and the ensuing effort to do and become good, is part of the continuing process of self development, a process that may begin at any point in life that you choose and continue till your last breath:
O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of Allah with all the consciousness that is due to Him, and do not allow, death to overtake you until you have surrendered yourselves unto Him. (Aal `Imran 3:102)
There will never be a point when you will be able to say that you are now a perfect person or that you have achieved your full potential. If at any point you feel so, then be sure that is the starting point of your downfall.
On the other hand, you may find that the greater your desire to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim the more you feel beset or plagued by frustration, despondency and despair in your heart and mind.
All of us, whether young or old, have experienced these diseases, and often just give up. What we should try to remember at such times is that it is the intention and effort that matters, not the result. This effort must be a continuing process:
Be not, then, faint of heart, and grieve not: for you are bound to rise high if you are believers. (Aal ‘Imran 3:139)
The article is excerpted from the author’s book In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.