To test if you are living the message, ask yourself:
- what you think of at the start of the day
- what your eyes are focused on
- what your tongue is saying
- what your ears are listening to
If we keep Allah in our thoughts, we keep weighing the above before any action. The aqeel will follow the right guidance of Allah. The foolish will trivialise the correct knowledge and will use his faculties in the wrong way.
The thinker will be conscious about obedience, in his limbs, money, time, emotions and devotion. He is always evaluating himself in relation to this goal. The foolish use their thought faculties to achieve their base desires, accumulate money, and perform forbidden acts.
The road we travel on depends on where our thoughts steer us. Similar to a road trip, we start with the main highway, and then the main road, and then branch out to the inner roads, to reach the right address. If we start on the wrong highway, we will lose precious time backtracking.
Arrogance, stubbornness and egocentric behaviours are destructive forces for the contemplation of Allah. One's intellect, wisdom and insight are in proportion to his humility towards Allah.
A thinker will be patient in seeking and implementing knowledge, because he places a high value on it. He understands that the implementation of that knowledge can sometimes be an uphill struggle, but is intelligent enough to bear it with patience.
Within the many branches of knowledge within Islam, such as rules, regulations, history, jurisprudence and the oneness of Allah, the most important is the knowledge of Allah, which generates iman (faith) and yaqeen (certainty of faith).
Without iman and yaqeen, all the other branches of Islamic knowledge will not lead one to Allah. Many, when discussing Islam, make the mistake of emphasising the regulations first. Actually, only a small portion of the Qur'an discusses regulations, while the majority of its content focuses on the knowledge of Allah. Especially for those whose Islam is inherited, we tend to start the wrong way round. We hammer in the halal and haram to our children, forcing them to perform salat and to fast, without giving them any sensible or useful knowledge of Allah. This leads to a generation of Muslims whose understanding of Islam is only skin deep, because it was taught to them by rote and not by substance.
There are ten attributes which can either destroy or elevate us. Destruction can occur through:
- Showing off
- Appetite for food
- Desire for intercourse
- Love of money
- Love of status.
The way to remedy the above is by performing the following ten actions:
- Feeling remorseful about our sins
- Exercising patience over calamity
- Contentment with our qadr (the decree of Allah)
- Thanking Allah for His ni'mah or bounty
- Balancing between fear and hope in Allah
- Shunning dunia
- Performing actions sincerely
- Good manner and character
- The love of Allah
- Obedience and surrender to Allah.
Thinking of Allah will edge out our self-importance. Constantly pondering the purpose of our existence and our destination, will lead us to iman, yaqeen and all the other qualities essential to guide us to steadfastness and insulate us against the diseases of the heart. The contemplation of Allah will subdue the spiritual diseases of the heart but if we are neglectful, then the diseases will spread.
However, such thinking and contemplating should not be done without guidance of a learned person, because one risks following his whims and fancies, and gives his own wrong interpretation of the knowledge of Allah.
Knowledge of Allah positions us in a state of obedience to Allah at all times. The cleaner one's spiritual state, the easier obedience to Allah is.
Ali ibn Abi Talib RA advised:
"Acquire knowledge, because he who acquires it, in the way of the Lord, performs an act of piety; who speaks of it praises the Lord; who seeks it, adores God, who dispenses instruction in it, bestows alms; and who imparts it to its fitting objects, performs an act of devotion to God.
Knowledge enables its possessor to distinguish what is forbidden from what is not; lights the way to Heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our companion in solitude, our companion, when bereft of friends; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is our ornament in the company of friends; it serves as an armour against our enemies.
With knowledge, the creatures of Allah rise to the heights of goodness and to noble position, associates with the sovereigns in this world and attains the perfection of happiness in the next."
He also advised to treat others with empathy and compassion. If you were to meet someone older, imagine that he is your father, if you were to meet a peer, imagine he is your brother, and if you were to meet someone younger, imagine that he is your son. Humility is imperative in the acquisition of knowledge.
Luqman the Wise advised his son that religion has three signs: Faith (iman), knowledge ('ilm) and deeds ('aml). He also said: "O my son! Be a companion of the wise and sit with them and do not argue with them that they may prevent their knowledge from you." Hence companionship is important, and this is in the quality rather than quantity of companions that we keep.
He also advised: "O My Son! Talk less and remember Allah at all places because He has warned you of His chastisement and has made you a wise observer."
It is suggested that a wise person will divide the day into four parts: to call Allah, to judge or assess himself, to seek knowledge and good companionship and to fulfil his own necessities.
All scholars agree that knowledge and adab are interlinked. Abdullah ibn Mubarak (RA) spent thirty years learning manners, and twenty years learning knowledge. If he were told of a man possessing all the knowledge of the first and last people, but lacks adab or manner, he would not regret if he did not meet the man. However, if he were to hear about a man who possesses adab, he would yearn to meet him and would be sorrowful if he could not.