Four stages of Spiritual Growth

The pandemic has taught us many things amongst them that spirituality is a necessity of a good life. By spirituality, I mean our relationship with the Eternal, Loving, Caring and the Almighty Lord of the universe. How do we relate to Him? How do we think about Him? What can we understand about Him? But moreover, how can we communicate in order to connect with Him? The following passage from Surat Al-Ala will help us answer these questions.

Allah says in The Majestic Quran, “We shall teach you the Quran so you will not forget it, except what Allah wills. He knows the open and the hidden. We shall make your journey easy, so give a reminder, the reminder is beneficial. The one in awe of his Lord will listen to the reminder, but the wicked will ignore it, he’s the one who will enter the great fire; there, neither will he die nor live. Successful is the one who purifies himself and remembers the name of his Lord and performs the prayer regularly. Unfortunately, you prefer the worldly life, yet the Hereafter is far better and long-lasting. This fact is written in the previous Scriptures as well; in the Scripture of Ibrahim and Musa” (Surat al Ala: 6-19).

In gardening, there’s a time for digging, raking and preparing the ground. A time for sowing the seed, a time to water and weed. Then a time for the flowers and fruits to grow, and a time for enjoying the blossoming and the flowers blooming. Eventually, the fruits are ready for picking and eating. Many scholars and spiritual guides say it’s the same with your spiritual growth. The section of Surat Al-Ala I presented above hints to the fascinating four-stage process.

Mawlana Yaqub Charkhi commented on these verses saying that they allude to the stages of spiritual growth.

  • The first stage is repentance and purification; the seeker rids himself of wretched qualities and vices like anger, arrogance, jealousy, and greed. This is like preparing the ground.
  • The second stage is nurturing the beautiful qualities of kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and patience.
  • The third stage is growth, the constant remembrance of Allah openly and secretly, inwardly and outwardly, with the tongue and heart. For many, this will be the five daily prayers. The Messenger (peace be upon him) used to say, “my delight is in the prayers.”
  • The fourth stage is experiencing the Divine presence, witnessing calmness, contentedness, and solace in the Divine presence.

Spirituality sometimes seems a daunting concept, an overwhelming struggle and even more difficult to acquire. However, it isn’t like that. Just like a blooming, colourful and rich garden is created by a thoughtful gardener. Similarly, we can make our hearts and minds ready for spirituality if we pay attention. This requires having a vision, which comes from strong faith in Allah and His book. It requires hard work to prepare and to realise that dream and here is where we need the beautiful role model of the Messenger (peace be upon him).

However, the nobler the aim, the harder it is to achieve, but not impossible. With a clear vision based on strong faith, with role models, we can realise the dream of spiritual growth. Once you are on the ladder rest assured it is climbing, ascending drawing nearer and closer to Allah. As you rise there is an ever-expanding vision and your inner thirst for His closeness will grow and so will the intensity of struggle against the odds.

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