Beloved Companions on the mystic Way,
The essence of Jihad, Striving, Field 8, is love.
Field Nine, Discipline, Riyadhat
The field of Discipline arises from the field of Striving.
Allah, the Most High, says, “…in it [the mosque that is built on piety] are people who love to be purified.” 9:108
Discipline is softening and minimizing one’s rigidity, and it has three principles: discipline of actions through vigilance, discipline of discourse and discussion through watchfulness, and discipline of manners and temperament through discretion.
It is essential to note that Shaykh Ansari, ra, equates discipline with softening. In our normal understanding we think of discipline as a hardening force, as stiffening and building an outer shell through which we uphold our self and our character.
But the spiritual Path is directed in great part toward dissolving the artificial character we have built around our true self which served to protect our sensitive heart against the attacks of the limited society. The practices of the mystic Path are intended to dissolve the barriers around our heart which are the same barriers which ‘separate’ us from Allah. We are never separate from Allah… it is our limited vision that perceives separation.
Discipline of actions through vigilance is the outcome of three practices: pursuing knowledge, consuming what has been set as lawful (halal) in religion, and continuing and maintaining prayers and remembrance of God (wird).
One of the ways to soften and make our actions more tender is through pursuing mystic knowledge, knowledge of our self and others. The more we are permeated by true knowledge, the more we will melt in compassion and gentleness, the more we will become considerate of others.
The second way to become soft in our actions is to consume what has been revealed as wholesome and healing for our body and our soul (the meaning of halal). The more we consume what is toxic or unhealthy for our bodies or disturbing and confusing for our hearts the more hardened and insensitive we will become in our way of behaving.
The third essential element for preserving softness and gentleness is prayer and remembrance of Allah. The more we remember Allah and worship Allah through our turning and gratitude, the more we will become gentle and soft in our behavior toward our Lord and Lover and toward all beings.
Discipline of discourse involves three things: recitation of the Quran, continuing one’s repentance and expressing apology (‘udhr), and offering wise counsel and advice to people.
By “discipline of discourse” I understand Shaykh Ansari, ra, to mean gentle and truthful speech. He informs us that three things support this. The first is reading and reciting the Quran (or other divinely revealed texts). This makes sense. The Quran and other revealed liturgy are God’s own speaking. Therefore it is the most beautiful speech, honey to our heart and ears. And if we desire that our own speaking be permeated with beauty we listen to God’s speaking. If we do not find it beautiful it is because the texts have been distorted by limited thinking in their translation or application. Many people find that they receive balm for their hearts by just listening to the vibration of the chanted Quran without the meaning of the words. And the same is true for Sanskrit and other divinely revealed words. They are innately healing and beautifying. In our lineage we have the Ilahis, which Muzaffer Effendi, ra, has said are Quran. So in singing our ilahis we are actually singing Quran, and they will also have the softening and beautifying influence on our speech and thought. And so will reciting the Salawats and reading the poetry of the mystics.
When the Shaykh says “continuing one’s repentance and expressing apology” it feels that he is saying, ‘keep turning to your heart and to Allah, keep drinking from the fountains of humbleness and nearness, and be always mindful of asking forgiveness from Allah and others.’ This will make one’s speech gentle and considerate.
The third advice to develop good speech means to use one’s mind and tongue in the service of others by speaking truthfully and sharing one’s knowledge where one thinks it will help another on their way.
Discipline of manner and temperament is found in humility, chivalry, and endurance.
This advice is clear and can be contemplated as is. We know that the presence and manner of people who are humble, noble and patient are the most pleasant to be with. Of course we all fail, as we are intended by Divine design to fail, but we can take this model as something to aspire to.
Ya Hu, O Lord of our hearts, please advance us in mystic knowledge and stations of nearness to You.