Definition and Treatment
Iniquity is defined, according to Shaykh Muhammad, the author of the book The Opening of the Truth, as harming anything in creation without just cause. The word is a translation of baghi, which is derived from the Arabic word that denotes desire. In this context, the problem is desiring something to the point of transgressing the rights of others to attain it. The iniquity and injustice that people aim at others ultimately work against the perpetrators: O you people, surely your iniquity is but against your selves(QURAN, 10:23). Imam Mawlud makes an analogy between iniquity and a powerfully intoxicating wine (called qarqaf) that makes one shudder when swallowed. This metaphorical wine is the “love of position,” which is a major motivation that impels some to wrong others. Even petty office managers oppress their subordinates for the purpose of marking their territory and securing their positions. Tyrants on corporate boards pull off power plays to acquire more authority or remove those whom they perceive to be potential challenges to their authority or position.
But the world’s most powerful leaders, after finally achieving what they so badly coveted, taste death. All their power abruptly vanishes at death’s door, the great leveler. Their minions die just the same, those who did whatever they could to move closer to people of authority. When one examines the conduct of the Companions, they sought to be nearer to the Prophet to learn more about their obligations and what would draw them closer to God. It was not a desire for illusory power. The believers around the Prophet saw up close that God chose Muhammad to be the conveyor and exemplar of the final message sent to humanity. Learning at the hand of the Prophet provides meaning and benefits that extend beyond this life. Attaining nearness to God does not involve wronging others. On the contrary, access to the source of all power requires a character that is selfless, compassionate, and sensitive to the rights of others.
The Imam states that the desire for temporal power is a move away from God—besides whom there is no power or might—and a move toward His creation, that is, people who are by comparison impoverished. Even the illusory possessions and authority they do have, they will protect like misers.
Vain pursuits wear out the soul. A person who endeavors to please people and gain their love, admiration, or approval will exhaust himself. In the end, his pursuit may leave some people pleased and happy, but others displeased and resentful. It is said that if one honors a noble man, he reciprocates honorably, but if one honors a vile person, he responds with anger and resentment. The poet Mutanabbi said, “Whenever you honor the honorable, you possess them. Whenever you honor the ignoble, they rebel.” What is prohibited in seeking the pleasure of others is what is done through trickery, ostentatious display of religiosity, or hypocritical flattery. One should not expect the pleasure of God when pursuing the pleasure of His creatures. Scholars have pointed out that seeking the pleasure of God actually makes a person pleasing to good people. One should not be concerned with the commendation of the corrupt, the miserly, power-hungry, and their like. It is a tremendous waste of time seeking those whose commendations are of no real value. Honor and rank are forever linked with the status one has with God. The great Muslim scholar Ibn Ata’illah said, “If you desire immortal glory, seek glory in the Immortal.”
The Imam speaks of ummih, which is another word for the world, although its original meaning is mother, the connection being that we are made from the material of this world. But the love of this world encrusts the heart. It is a dedication to the material world at the expense of spiritual ascendancy. Love like this keeps a person’s eyes toward the earth—figuratively speaking—and makes one heedless of the ultimate return to God.
The cure for this is having certainty in the ultimate destiny of humanity. Keeping in mind the spectacle of standing in the Hereafter for judgment has the power to expose the utter waste of irrelevant pursuits.
The Prophet said, “Remember often the destroyer of pleasure,” that is, death. Remembering death is a spiritual practice that cleanses the heart of frivolousness. The Prophet once passed by a group of Muslims who were laughing heartily, and he said to them, “Mix in your gatherings the remembrance of death.” This is not a prohibition against laughter, but a reminder that prolonged amusement has the capacity to anesthetize the soul. Someone once asked A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, about the most wondrous thing she observed about the Prophet . She said, “Everything about him was wondrous. But I will say this: when the veiling of the night came, and when every lover went to his lover, he went to be with God.” The Prophet stood at night in prayer, remembering his Lord until his ankles swelled up and tears dripped from his beard.
The Prophet said, “Death is closer to any of you than the strap on your sandals.” Somewhere on earth there is a door reserved for each soul, and one day each of us will walk through that door never to return to this life again. Where that door is and when we will walk through it are unknowns that we must live with. Upon death, suddenly all of this—this whole world and all of its charms and occupations—will become as if it were all a dream: And you will think that you tarried [on earth] only for a short while(QURAN, 17:52).
Even those who are spiritually blind will see in the new order of existence the ultimate truth about God and our purpose as His creation. And when we climb out of our graves for the mighty Gathering in the Hereafter, it will seem to us that we had stayed in our graves for only a day or part of a day, as the Quran states. When one is confronted with eternity and its iron-clad reality, this world will seem like the most ephemeral of existences. This once overwhelmingly alluring life will be of no value to anyone. It serves the soul to be actively aware that the door to death awaits each human being and that it can open at any time. For this reason, the Imam says that we must keep the spectacle of death before our eyes and realize its proximity.
Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart
Translation and Commentary of Imām Mawlūd’s Maṭharat al-Qulūb
by Hamza Yusuf
Yusuf, Hamza. (2021, January 22). Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart. Retrieved from https://www.mylifeisislam.com