There is a natural-worldly mindset, deeply engaged and almost entirely immersed in the material things. Then there is an Islamic-spiritual mindset, deeply engaged and almost entirely immersed in the Divine, the Hereafter. To live successfully, you must nurture a spiritual mindset. What does it look like?
The prayer of people of understanding
This passage from The Majestic Quran succinctly describes what this spiritual mindset is: “Allah has the control of the heavens and Earth; He has power over all things. In the creation of the heavens and Earth and the cycle of night and day, there are signs for people of understanding. They remember Allah standing, sitting and lying down, and reflect deeply on the creation of the heavens and the Earth. They pray: Our Lord, You have not created this in vain Glory be to You! Save us from the punishment of the Fire. Our Lord, anyone You cast into the Fire, will be humiliated such evildoers have no helpers. Our Lord, we heard a crier calling to faith, saying, ‘Believe in your Lord,’ so we believed. Our Lord, forgive our sins, erase our evil deeds, and include us among the righteous when we die. Our Lord, give us what You have promised us through Your messengers and do not humiliate us on the Day of Judgement; indeed, You do not break Your promise” (Ale Imran: 189-194).
The Quran is encouraging us ‘to develop consciousness of sins so we can avoid sins that prevent loving Allah.’ This is self-examination, introspection and contemplation. Imam Abu Qasim al-Qushayri said, ‘Our way is based on two things: Compel yourself to be vigilantly aware of Allah and then your behaviour should display it.’ Ibrahim al-Khawwas said, ‘Observance leads to watchfulness that leads to devotion to Allah, Most High.’ As you programme your life in accordance with the Quran and submit yourself to His will, He will whisper His thoughts in your mind. A great blessing!
For example, when someone criticises you and your feelings are hurt, then at that moment you remember the beloved Master (peace be upon him) and how he was hurled abuse by Abu Jahl and called names by Waleed ibn Mughira. You know you’re being hurt, your pride is damaged, but you know my standing with my lord is getting better. He is there to support me.
The person who criticised you may see your faults and you know well that I am not a saint, sinless and perfect anyway! So, you take it as an opportunity to grow morally and spiritually. It might sound flippant, but you are hurt and pained. So “Believers, get help with patience and prayer” the Quran teaches us. Don’t let it paralyse you, instead get energised. When you focus your mind on the right feelings and actions you will be fine. Now you’re starting to live out the promise, instead of focusing on your critics, focus on Allah, on your spiritual growth and on what you can learn from the experience.
Being vigilant gives internal silence and rest, clearing the clutter in one’s mind and providing a sense of calm that helps to connect realistically with the world around. Abu Usman said ‘When you start instructing people, first preach to the self, remember Allah watches your inner being.’
Inner-inspection in the Sunnah
The blessed Messenger (peace be upon him) spent a lot of time in the cave of Hira’ in stillness and solitude high above the city of Makkah. He contemplated and prepared himself mentally and spiritually for the heavy task lying ahead. However, he (peace be upon him) loved to teach, preach and be with his companions as well. Once he (peace be upon him) said ‘The intelligent person is the one who controls himself and works for the Hereafter and the foolish person is the one who follows his whims yet hopes for God’s kindness’ (Tirmidhi). In another hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Fear Allah wherever you are, follow an immoral deed with a good one to wipe it away and behave well towards people’ (Tirmidhi). This made the companions very sensitive about their dealings with people. The companion Anas ibn Malik advised his students saying, ‘You do things that are trivial in your eyes, yet in the time of the Messenger (peace be upon him) we regarded them as appalling sins’ (Bukhari).