Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Certainty and Intention by Imam al-Haddad (Book of Assistance)

You must, beloved brother, strengthen and improve your certainty. For when certainty prevails in the heart and establishes itself therein the unseen becomes as if seen and the man aided by providence says, as 'All, may God ennoble his face, said: 'Were the cover to be removed, I would not increase in

Certainty is power, firmness and stability of faith so great that it becomes as a towering mountain which no doubts can shake and no illusions rock. Rather, doubts and illusions disappear completely, and when they come from outside are neither listened to by the ear nor heeded by the heart. The Devil cannot approach the possessor of such certainty; he flees from him, fears his very shadow, and is content to keep at a safe distance. As the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, has said: 'Satan is afraid of the shadow of 'Umar, and 'Umar never takes a road but that Satan takes

Certainty derives its power and excellence from many things. The first, most essential and pivotal of these is that the servant listen attentively with his heart as well as his ears to verses and hadiths relating to God, His Majesty, Perfection, Magnitude, and Grandeur, His Uniqueness in creating and deciding, ruling and compelling; likewise to the truthfulness and perfection of the Messengers, the miracles they were aided with, and the sundry chastisements which befell those who opposed them. That these are sufficient to bring about certainty is indicated by His Word (Exalted is He!): Is it not enough for them that We have sent down upon you the Book which is recited to them? [XXIX:51]

The second is to learn from looking at the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and the wondrous and astounding creatures that God made them teem with. That this brings about certainty is indicated by His saying (Exalted is He!): We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and within themselves
until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth. [XLI:53]

The third is to behave according to what one believes, outwardly and inwardly, zealously, and to the limits of one's resources. That this brings about certainty is indicated by His saying (Exalted is He!): Those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them to Our ways. [XXIX:69]

Proper certainty results in, among many other things, acquiescence in God's promise, confidence in what He has guaranteed, turning to God with pure longing, abandoning all things which distract from Him, continuously returning to Him in all circumstances, and spending all one's energy in seeking His good pleasure.

In sum, certainty is the essential thing, and all other noble ranks, praiseworthy traits of character and good works are its branches and results.

Virtues and actions are strong or weak, sound or unsound, according to the strength or otherwise of certainty. Luqman, upon whom be peace, said: 'Action is possible only in the presence of certainty; a servant acts in obedience only to the extent that he has certainty, and a man becomes neglectful in
his actions only when his certainty diminishes.' This is why the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, has said: 'Certainty is the whole of faith.'

Believers have three degrees of certainty. The first is that of the People of the Right Hand, 10 this is firm belief but with the possibility of becoming doubtful or shaky under certain circumstances. This is called faith.

The second is that of the Ones Brought Nigh, which is the possession of the heart by faith and its establishing itself therein so firmly that its opposite becomes no longer possible or even imaginable. In this degree the unseen becomes as the seen. This is called certainty.

The third is that of the Prophets and the True Saints [siddl- qun] n who are their perfect heirs. Here the unseen becomes seen, which thing is called unveiling [kashj] and contemplation [mushahada].

There are grades within each degree: all are good, but some better than others. That is God's grace, He bestows it upon whom He will, and God's grace is abundant. [LVII:29]

On Intention 

You must, O my brother, improve the soundness and sincerity of your intentions, examine them, and reflect well before embarking on your actions. For intentions are the bases of deeds; according to them your deeds will either be good or ugly, sound or unsound. The Prophet has said, may blessings and peace be upon him: 'Deeds are only according to intentions; each man has that which he intended.'

You must, therefore, utter no word, do no action, and decide no matter without the intention of drawing nearer thereby to God and seeking the reward He has assigned, through His beneficence and grace, to the intended act. And know that drawing nearer to Him can only be done through the obligatory and supererogatory devotions that He has indicated through His Messenger, may blessings and peace be upon him.

A sincere intention may change the merely licit into the devotional, for means are judged according to their ends. For example, one may eat to get the strength to perform devotions, or sleep with one's wife to obtain a son who would worship God.

It is a condition of the sincere intention that behaviour does not belie it. For instance, a man who seeks knowledge claiming that his intention is to practice and teach it will be proved insincere in his intention if, when he becomes able to, he does not do so. Or a man who pursues the world and claims that he
is doing so only that he may be independent of other people and be able to give charity to the needy and help his relatives will be proved ineffectual in his intention should he not do so when able.

Intentions do not affect sins, just as purification does not affect that which is, by its very nature, impure. A man who goes along with another who is slandering a Muslim, then pretends that he only wanted to humour him, is himself a slanderer. Anyone who refrains from the enjoining of good and the forbidding of evil and pretends that he only did so to protect himself against the culprit, is his partner in evil-doing. A malicious intention attached to a good deed spoils it and renders it malicious; likewise when one performs good deeds for the sake of wealth and prestige.

Strive, my brother, always to intend that your obedience be solely for the sake of God, and that whatever licit things you may use are only to help you to obey Him.

Know that many intentions can attach to a single act, and that each of them will attract its full reward. An example of this in devotional activities is when someone reads the Qur'an intending to commune with God (which thing he will indeed do) but also to extract from it different kinds of knowledge,
(for the Qur'an is the very mine of knowledge), to profit those who listen or [just happen to] hear, or any other good intention. And an example in licit matters is to eat with the intention of obeying the command of your Lord in His saying (Exalted is He!): O you who believe! Eat of the good things with
which We have provided you, and give thanks to God. [11:172] Intend by so doing to acquire strength for devotion, and to put yourself in a situation where you must thank your Lord, for He says (Transcendent is He!): Eat of your Lord's provision and thank Him. [XXXIV: 15] You can apply these two examples in an analogous fashion to all other devotional and licit activities; and always do your best to increase your good intentions.

The word 'intention' can have one of two meanings. The first is the aim which made you decide, do, or say something. Taken in this sense the intention is usually better than the act when the act is good, and worse when the act is evil. He has said, may blessings and peace be upon him: 'The intention of a
believer is better than his action;' notice how he specifically mentioned the believer. The second is your decision and determination to act. Taken in this sense it is not better than the act. A man, when he decides to do something, can only be in one of three situations. [I] He decides and acts. [II] He decides but fails to act while able to. The way to evaluate these two situations can be clearly found in that which Ibn 'Abbas, may God be pleased with them both, has transmitted to the effect that the Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, said: 'God has written good and evil deeds, then rendered them clear; anyone who intends a good deed but does not perform it, God records it as one good deed, whereas should he intend and then perform it, God records it as ten good deeds, up to seven hundred fold, and to yet more multiplications. If he intends an evil deed and does not do it, God
records it as one full good deed; if he intends and then does it, God records it as one evil deed.' [Ill] He determines upon something which he is for the time being unable to do and says: 'Were I able, I would do [such-and-such a thing].' He receives the same as the one who acts, whether this be for or against him.

The evidence for this is the Prophet's saying, may blessings and peace be upon him: 'People are of four kinds: a man to whom God has given knowledge and wealth, and who uses his knowledge to manage his wealth; another who says: "Were God to give mejust as He has given so-and-so I would act like him," - their rewards are equal. And a man to whom God has given wealth but no knowledge, who mishandles his wealth through ignorance; while another says: "Were God to give me as He has given so-and-so I would act like him" - their burdens of sin are equal.'

Imam ‘Abdallah Ibn ‘Alawi al-Haddad, The Book of Assistance, translated by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi.

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