Means to Help One Along the Path

It is admitted that it is much easier to identify that process than it is to make oneself walk along that path. Therefore, mention must be made (however briefly) of specific means and measures that in general should help one follow the path of purification. In essence, these “means and measures” simply fall into one of the steps described in the process of purification (that is, they fall into the category of either obligatory or recommended acts). However, within those steps, there are some acts that seem most prominent in bringing about additional benefit for the purification of the soul. Hence, they are specifically highlighted here. The actions include the following:

(1) Turning to and praying to Allah for help and guidance: This step usually takes place before the attaining of knowledge. One should seek guidance from Allah concerning all matters but especially to know the path that leads to His pleasure.

(2) Taking the steps to attain sound and beneficial knowledge: Allah willing, knowledge will be given to the person by Allah as a result of his sincere supplication and his taking the steps to attain that knowledge. In particular, though, the relevant knowledge concerning spiritual purification cannot be found in detail unless one studies both the Quran and the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

(3) Proper dhikr (remembrance of Allah): After the knowledge comes dhikr which, in essence, means keeping that awareness and knowledge alive and at a conscious level. Without this awareness, there is no hope in one actually applying or benefiting from what one has learned.

(4) Contemplation and reflection: Contemplation moves one to a stronger and greater level of faith. It builds upon and strengthens the dhikr. It also assists the individual in developing a more mature understanding of the knowledge he has received. It also helps him in tying that knowledge into everything that is happening around him, in turn enhancing his intensity of dhikr.

(5) Realizing the true nature of this worldly existence: This can really be considered a result of contemplation or a further development in one’s spiritual progression. It refers to a deeper understanding that the life of the Hereafter is the only real life and that this worldly life is not the life that one has been created to live for or seek after with all of one’s means and abilities. The realizing of the true importance or lack thereof of this worldly life assists in repelling the strong temptations found in this world.

(6) Striving against any evil inclinations in the soul: “Striving against the soul” (jihaad al-nafs) becomes much easier after the above steps have been taken. The soul may always present some temptations, diseases or weaknesses.
One must strive but it is very possible and plausible given the right tools to overcome any weakness that the soul may possess.

(7) Having righteous companions, friends and spouses: This is to give one further strength and support. The goal of being surrounded by pious companions is that they keep that dhikr alive. Such companions also advise each other, give strength to each other when they become weak and encourage each other to do the correct deeds. In addition, they can offer each other knowledge and guidance, especially during troubling or confusing times.

(8) Attending the mosques: Attending the mosques strengthens the ties with other righteous Muslims, helps improve one’s prayers (which in itself is a key to spiritual purification), allows one to gain access to sources of knowledge, provides a place for being reminded of one’s purpose in life and provides a place to witness pious examples which encourage one to strive harder for spiritual purification.

(9) Taking account of one’s deeds, behavior and character: This is the refinement process that no program can be successful without. One must constantly go over the different steps that one has taken and the different actions that one has performed to see where there are faults and what must be improved. One must never be negligent of this practice as otherwise one may be falling into a deep abyss and never even realize what is occurring. Without realizing what is occurring, it is difficult to imagine that the person will be able to do anything about it.