WHAT THE SEEKER NEEDS - 3

By Muhiyy ad-Din Ibn 'Arabi

A matter of the greatest importance, one of your greatest needs, is to be sure that the morsel of bread you put in your mouth is lawful. Lawful sustenance, the lawfulness of all you enjoy in this world, is the foundation of your faith. It is upon this foundation that your religion can be built.

To advance in this path, in the footsteps of the prophets (peace and blessings be upon them), you have to be light - light in worldly goods, light in your concerns about this world. An unmistakable sign of the heaviness that will prevent you from advancing is to be a burden on people. Neither be a freeloader nor let others carry your load. Particularly, don't accept goods and favors, either for yourself or for others, from people whose hearts are dead, submerged in the sleep of heedlessness.

In what Allah permits you to gain as your sustenance - in all your actions, behavior and words - fear Allah. Do not seek comfort and luxury, especially when you have not worked hard for it. Lawful sustenance is obtained by working harder than is demanded of you. A clear sign of the lawfulness of one's gain is that it will not permit you to be either stingy or a spendthrift.

Take care, since if the love of this world takes root firmly in your heart, it constricts your heart, and it becomes exceedingly hard to pull it out and throw it away. This world is a trial ground; don't seek comfort and riches in it. Eat less. That will leave more space in your heart and will increase your desire to pray and be obedient It will make you more active and less lazy.

Cleanse and beautify your days and nights with worship. The generous Lord asks you to His presence five times a day. Do your prayers at the times He calls you, five times daily, and at each prayer make an accounting of your actions since the last prayer. It is to be hoped that only good deeds and actions befitting a Muslim are done between the times of prayer.

Most people complain that this world, their work to secure their sustenance, and their work as householders for their families, take time away from their worship. Know that work done heedfully, with consideration for others, in accordance with proper behavior, for the pleasure of Allah, is also worship.

Allah has blessed you with intellect, knowledge, profession, strength, and health. All grace and power are due to Him. Use these to gather as much of your sustenance as possible in the minimum of time. If possible, secure in one day your week's sustenance. Take the example of Ahmad al-Sabti, a prince, the son of the 'Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid. He used the maximum of his talents and strength and effort and worked exceedingly hard as a manual laborer on Saturday. With what he earned in one day he was able to live a whole week. He dedicated the remaining six days of the week to working for Allah and worshipping Him.

After you perform your morning prayer, stay with your Lord until sunrise, and after your afternoon prayer stay in His presence until sunset. These are two periods of time when spiritual powers and enlightenment flow in abundance. Keep your heart tied to Allah in humility and in peace.

There is great virtue and merit in performing extra worship of twenty cycles of prayer between the afternoon and evening prayers, and between the evening and night prayers. Perform extra prayers of four cycles just before the noon prayer, after and just before the afternoon prayer, and after the evening prayer. Perform another ten cycles of prayers in sets of two after the obligatory night prayer, and the three cycles of closing prayer, witr, as the last worship of the day.

Do not sleep until you are unable to stay awake. Do not eat until you are hungry. Dress only to cover your body and to protect it from cold and from heat. Make it a habit to read from the Holy Qur'an every day. When you read, hold the holy book with respect. Keep it in your left hand at the level of your chest, and move your right hand along the words you read. Read aloud, but just loud enough that you can hear your own voice.

Read without haste, slowly thinking of the meaning of each word. Wish for divine mercy and beneficence when you come to the verses that inspire His mercy. Take warning from the verses of admonition, and when reading them, promise your Lord your determination to act upon His command, repenting, taking refuge in His mercy, seeking salvation. When you read verses describing the praiseworthy qualities of the truly faithful, think of your own qualities. Be thankful and praise Him for your good qualities, and feel shame for the qualities missing in you, so mat you may hope to find the character of the faithful in yourself. And when you read about the faults of the nonbelievers and of the hypocrites who hide and distort the truth, think about whether you are also afflicted with such faults. If you are, try to stop them, to chase them away, to eliminate them. If you do not have them, take refuge in Him, be thankful and praise Him.

What is essential for you is to be heedful at all times, to be attentive to what comes into your mind and your heart. Think about and analyze these thoughts and feelings. Try to control them. Beware of the wishes of your ego, settle your accounts with it.

Have conscience, shame, in front of Allah. That will be a motivation to make you heedful. You will then care about what you are doing or saying or thinking, and the thoughts and feelings that are ugly in the eyes of Allah will be unable to settle in your heart. Your heart will then be safe from wishing acts not in accordance with Allah's pleasure.[1]

Give value to your time, live in the present moment. Do not live in imagination and throw your time away. Allah has prescribed a duty, an act, a worship for your every moment. Know what it is and hasten to do it. First perform the actions He has given to you as obligations. Then do what He has given to you to do through the example of His Prophet. Then take on what He has left you as voluntary, acceptable good deeds. Work to serve the ones who are in need.

Do everything you do in order to come close to your Lord in your worship and prayers. Think that each deed may be your last act, each prayer your last prostration, that you may not have another chance. If you do this, it will be another motivation for becoming heedful and also for becoming sincere and truthful. Allah does not accept good deeds done unconsciously and insincerely as readily as deeds done in consciousness and sincerity.

Cleanliness is an order of Allah. Keep your body and your inner self clean at all times. Whenever you make an ablution make two cycles of prayer following it, except when you have to make an ablution at times when praying is not permitted: at sunrise, at high noon, and at sunset. Friday is an exception to that rule; it is permissible then to pray at high noon.

Part 4