From the field of Disengagement the field of Abstinence is born. Allah Most High says, “If you refrain from what is forbidden for you (We shall expel all negativity in you…” (4:31)
Alhamdulillah! This is a good exchange. The human constitution, by Divine design, has a clot of negativity lodged within its wondrous form that brings about the great human drama of error and repentance and forgiveness and return and rejoicing in the victory of love. Human greatness is to overcome or expel negative impulses through orienting to our Original Source and following the light of guidance in the revelations and in the teachings. The teaching of field fifteen is similar to the one given to Adam and Eve – ‘stay away from the fruit of this tree and you will continue to enjoy the Garden and My Pleasure.’ Except in our case it is ‘stay away from what is forbidden and We will expel from within you what is not of paradise and bliss and that which leads to unhappiness.’ So as dervishes on the Path we must know what is forbidden. It is also good to learn what is allowed, what is recommended and what is praiseworthy.
The Quran is explicit in what is forbidden. But we need Divine help to keep us away from what is harmful to ourselves and others. We ask that our Lover and Guardian keep us away from anything displeasing, from anything that puts a mark on our pure human soul, from not being truthful with one’s tongue or one’s behavior, defrauding or betraying another, participating in the spreading of untruth or gossip, killing life uselessly, damaging another’s well-being intentionally, drinking and consuming what darkens our soul, whether it be physical food or subtle vibrations, and anything that goes against our clear conscience.
Shaykh Ansari, ra, outlines the means of protection to keep away from the forbidden. Another way is to keep good company, the company of those who are also oriented to God and long for God’s approval and pleasure. If we hang out with immature or doubtful ones we will much more easily fall into error.
Abstinence is keeping away from the blameworthy and immoral, avoiding excess, and avoiding thoughts which trouble the mind.
Abstinence from what is blameworthy is achieved through three things:
keeping oneself untarnished by reproach
preserving one’s faith from diminishing
preserving one’s heart from impurity
I think that Shaykh Ansari means Divine ‘reproach’, Divine disapproval, not the reproach of other people which is not always based on truth.
Preserving one’s faith from diminishing and one’s heart from impurity is very important. It means watching over our heart as we would watch over a baby or we would watch the reflections in the face of our beloved. And that means noticing how our actions and thoughts affect our heart, whether immediately or delayed. For instance we can suddenly find our self in a sad or depressed state and wonder why. We should contemplate what we did or what we were thinking prior to the state. We might find that a negative thought or act slipped in and then cast a shadow over our happiness.
By maintaining the well-being of our heart we maintain our faith. And by supporting our faith we are less likely to be drawn into the blatantly negative, what is forbidden to us.
Abstinence from the pursuit of worldly excess is achieved through three things:
Fearing to be called to account
Fearing to be taunted by one’s enemies
Fearing to be defrauded by one’s heirs
We are encouraged to enjoy the things that are good and pure in the world as they increase our knowledge of Allah, our gratitude to Allah and our well-being. “O ye messengers! Consume the things that are good and pure, and work righteousness: for I am well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (23:51)
But we must be careful to stay in balance in order to keep our spirit clear. For instance, it is recommended that we eat until our stomach is almost full but not completely full. We are encouraged to leave a little emptiness in it. The sliver of appetite which remains helps us to keep spiritually awake.
And also, the ‘things good and pure’ refer not just to material things, the phrase refers even more pointedly to spiritual truths and spiritual love. But we can ‘spiritualize’ the ‘material’ thing by seeing its true meaning as a sign of Allah, as a vibration of Allah. So Solomon loved….
Abstinence from distraction of the mind and disturbing memories is achieved thru three things:
Pondering the Quran
Reflection on spiritual subjects
Pondering the Quran means to keep reminding our self that our life is based on the great divine pattern revealed in the Quran, and that our life is within the divine intention and plan of our beloved Creator. It is not just a chance event. These repeated reflections will elevate our spirit and help to keep away depressing or distorted thoughts.
Visiting cemeteries will remind us that our life is fleeting and its actions will be weighed. Insha’allah this will help us to stay away from what is harmful to us and others and will increase our ardor for accomplishing the good.
Reflection on spiritual subjects will increase our joy in the life of the spirit and decrease our need or desire for the worldly. This in itself will inspire our mind and make it less likely to fall into depression.
Free us from faces revealing Your Face
Free us from doors opening Your Door
If you but once call me love’s slave
My bliss will surpass the bliss of Your Throne
(Ansari Munajat, through the luminous heart of Shaykh Nur al Jerrahi)