Purification of the Soul in Ramadan (Tazkiyyah al-Nafs)

By: Professor Alhagi Manta Drammeh (PGCerTHE, FHEA, FRSA, UK)

“He has succeeded who purifies it” (Qur’an 91:9) and “Just as We have sent among you a messenger from yourselves reciting to you Our verses and purifying you and teaching you the Book and wisdom and teaching you that which you did not know” (Qur’an, 2:151). The above verses are among many Qur’anic verses that urge believers to purify themselves and that salvation and success in this world and hereafter is attained by purifying oneself.

Purification or tazkiyyah is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam that is greatly neglected by Muslims. If you look at rulings of Islam, they probably comprise the belief system (aqidah), practical juristic issues (fiqh) and the rulings pertaining to the purification of the soul. Muslims do a great job in terms of the first two typologies but sadly neglect the third category.

The secret of attainment of the pleasure of Allah has to do greatly with this soul (nafs) and its purification. Thus, the outwardly actions of a believer have deeper spiritual meanings that a believer has to know and aspire for. The essence of prayer is to show humility before the Creator. The essence of fasting is to have the Consciousness of Allah the Qur’an refers to as taqwa. The essence of hajj is to glorify and deify Allah and indeed glorify the sacred places. The essence of supplication (duaa) is to show our real poverty to the Rich. Finally, the essence of remembrance of Allah (dhikr)is to invoke the Grandeur and Greatness of the Creator. That is to be in constant communion, communication and connection with Him the Almighty. Truly, prayer allows us to control our emotions Indeed, mankind was created anxious: When evil touches him, impatient, and when good touches him, withholding [of it], Except the observers of prayer, Those who are constant in their prayer (Qur’an, 70-23). The constant prayer probably means constant connection with the Creator and continuous remembrance of Him for His bounty and blessings upon us. The Qur’an thus reminds: “Who feared the Most Merciful unseen and came with a heart returning [in repentance].”

(Qur’an, 50:33) and again “But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.” Qur’an, 26:89). As for Ramadan, it is a combination of prayer, dhikr, fasting and alms giving (zakah) to have piety and that is being conscious of the Majesty and magnificence of the Creator. Therefore, fasting is not mere abstinence from eating and drinking. It is verily, fasting from arrogance and all forms of the aliments of the heart. It is fasting against your emotions. Thus, the eyes, the ears and the tongue will all fast. This what Imam al-Ghazali (1058-1111) refers to as the siyam khawas al-Khawas. That is the fasting of the special of the special people. Fasting is a spiritual school that trains to be sincere, honest and helpful. It trains us to be in connection with our Creator and to strive against our low instincts. Needless to say, at the end that all forms of devotion in Islam are directly or directly linked to the purification of the soul. The Qur’an states: “It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom – although they were before in clear error” (Qur’an, 62:2).

Finally, I take this opportunity to wish all the Gambians Eid Mubarak. May peace, stability and prosperity reign in our beloved country. May Allah bless you all and accept all your acts of devotion in this holy month coming to an end.


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