The Philosophy of the teachings of Islam was read at a conference at Lahore in 1896 By HMGA Sahib. The arguments were drawn only from the HQ and the presenters from other religions had to observe similar rules and if they presented anything outside of their scripture then they make an advance of a new book and not the one which they professes to support.
The first question relates to the three conditions of man. Which is about how the nafs (self) evolves from the animal state to moral and finally the spiritual state. Just like learning new skills at work empowers us, we must get to know the three states of our nafs so it empowers us to be better Muslims. If you feel you are in the animal state or the morale state, then what should you strive towards or what is the benchmark and what are the guiding principles to help us get there.
The first condition known in the HQ is the nafs al-ammara which signifies the uncontrollable spirit or the disobedient state. Naturally we think that children are disobedient but Allah is not referring to children here. He defines this state as, “Surely (man’s) self is wont to command (him to do) evil.” 12:53. This state stands in the way of his attainment to reach the morale and spiritual state and tends to lead man into the immoral and indecency path. I better way in explaining this state is when man only follow their natural conditions of eating, sleeping, drinking, becoming angry, jealous and stubborn just like lower animals would except lower animals do not get jealous. Off course we need to eat to survive but doing so out of desire and not out of necessity is being in the animal state. “Eat and drink but be not prodigal” HQ 7:31. In this khutab I will discuss how knowledge and reason can guide us to transit from the animal state to the morale state. How can we govern of our animal passion and stop it from governing us. Ramadan is a perfect time to ponder on our animal passions and work hard to take charge of it or some may say taking the bull by the horns. Allah’s mercy is abundant on the Muslims during this month. When a person passes out of the animal state, he is now a moral being in the strict sense of the word.
The second condition known in the HQ is the nafs al-lawwama which signifies the self-accusing spirit. Allah defines this state as “Nay, I swear by the self-accusing spirit!” 75:2. This is the spring, from which flows a highly morale life and, on reaching this stage, man is free from bestiality (savage). This stage shows sure sign of improvement and purification, which is praised in the sight of Allah. Who would not want to be praised in the sight of Allah? Lawwama literally means “one who disapproves severely”. Nafs al-lawwama is called the self-accusing spirit because it finds fault in a man for doing evil deeds and strongly hates it. Its tendency on the other hand is to generate noble qualities and a virtuous disposition. Though the “self-accusing soul” upbraids itself from faults and frailties, yet it is not the master of its passions, nor is it powerful enough to practice virtue exclusively. Its weakness (i.e Nafs al-lawwama) resembles a child who does not want to fall but his legs are sometimes unable to support him. The soul in this state is anxious to attain moral excellence but it has the tendency to fall similar to a toddler attempting to walk.
The third or final state is called nafs al-Mutmainnah or “the soul at rest” where the soul has attained all spiritual quality. Allah defines this state as “O thou art soul at rest, return to the Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing, so enter My servants, and enter My Garden!” The soul is free from all weaknesses and is braced with spiritual strength. It is perfectly united with Allah and cannot live without Him. “O thou art soul at rest, return to the Lord…” does not mean after death but in this life. It is in this life where the great transformation occurs and “My Garden” refers to paradise in this world.
What is the effect of the teachings of Islam on the physical state (animal state)?
According to Islam the physical state is closely connected with the moral and spiritual states of a man. This can be proven by studying the outward behaviour of humans and how that changes internal feelings. For example, an artificial laugh can bring about joy in the heart but weeping brings about sadness. Strutting stimulates vanity whilst prostration brings humility. Hence why it is suggested to make supplication (dua) during prostration. Even eating and drinking play a role in moulding the moral and spiritual states. A carnivore such as a bear illustrates courage and power but herbivores do not possess one hundredth of the courage of a bear. This also applies to the soul. A man who eats meat demonstrates strength but a vegetarian possesses much less. On the same note, a man who eats excess meat shows poor signs of humility and meekness. Hence why a middle ground is recommended by the HQ. “Eat and drink but be not prodigal”. There is no doubt that eating and drinking play a part in the formation of character. It is important to note that your soul internally is also interrelated with the physical state. A man who griefs will shed tears and joy makes him laugh.
To provide more context, the soul is immaterial which our eyes cannot see. Scientist have difficulty explaining the soul. “As a radiologist, I look at the interior of the human body every day, but have yet to see a soul.” Said Duncan McDougall. An American physician in the 1900s. To explain this mystery, we first need to address the wrong notion that the soul comes from the heavens according to some traditions. Just like fire is hidden in flint so is the soul. The seed of the soul gradually develops in the body whilst it is in the womb of it mother. Allah explains that He causes the life germ to grow into another creation in 23:14. The soul does not come from the heavens to earth and into the human body. It grows from inside. Just like thousands of insects come out of rotten fruits do not come from the outside or descend from the heaven.
One of the characteristics of the soul worth mentioning is that it follows the movement of the body (physical state) and if the body is drawn in any directions, the soul must follow. Since the soul moves in accordance to the body, the HQ emphasises on the reformation of the physical or animal state of the man’s life. The manner of satisfying all his requirements, his family, social connections, health and sickness. This was the focus of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which led the savages to reform during the days of ignorance. In this khutba, a few of the guiding rules will be observed so we can accustom ourselves how to change our physical or animal state which directly impacts the soul. All these leads to the last stage in the development of man, the spiritual state, where man completely forgets himself in the love of Allah and in doing His will and his whole life is lived only for the sake of his Master.
It is important to note that mere possession of a few morale qualities does not give us the ticket to the spiritual state. You will hear atheists say, why do we need God when morality is innate. In all fairness, most people can avoid mischief and keep composed during confronting moments irrespective to faith or no faith. In this case, we may be exercising our natural qualities which Allah has endowed upon humanity. If you lash at a tamed bull, it will not resist, yet it would be wrong to ascribe morale quality to it or on the same note, describe a domestic dog as having refined manners whilst it is expressing docility. Before a man is guided in his actions by reason and conscience [physical or animal state], his acts do not fall under the acts of morale excellence though it may resemble them; they are but natural and instinctive impulses. Unless and until man starts to utilise reason, conscience and knowledge he won’t be able to distinguish between good and bad actions or between two good or two bad actions. On the flip side, once man fully develops his reason, conscience and knowledge, he starts to feel remorse from doing unrighteous deeds and is eager to do good deeds. These are the symptoms of the morale state, Nafs al-lawwama. (Self-accusing spirit).
In this khutba I will not outline the guiding morale principles which can take
person from the animal state to the morale state but from the morale to the spiritual state, where the soul is free from all weaknesses and is braced with spiritual strength and is perfectly united with Allah and cannot live without Him. That is the goal. “And that to thy Lord is the goal” 53:42. The morale state can be categorised into two classes; The first class is when injury is not caused to a person’s honour, live or property by the eyes, hand or tongue and the second type is doing and enjoining good on others. I will observe one example of each class.
The definition of honesty is not injuring others by deceiving them or taking unlawful possessions of their properties. These qualities are naturally met in man. “Surely (man’s) self is wont to command (him to do) evil.” If being dishonest is natural for man, then how can we be honest? Mirza Sahab explains this beautifully in comparison with an infant. He says honesty comes from the actions of an infant though for the infant he is only acting on natural impulse. An infant is unwilling to suckle the milk of a woman other than its mother. This habit in the infant is the root from which flows the natural inclination to be honest, which is later developed into moral quality known as honesty. He compares natural inclinations to moral qualities and then explains that it is the natural quality that needs to be developed to reach the moral quality. With this guideline we can relook at the definition of honesty. The true principle of honesty is that there should be the same unwillingness of the dishonest taking of another’s property as the child is sucking the milk of a woman other than its mother. Just like a child will naturally reject, we must also reject dishonest dealings in the similar manner. This is when you can call yourself of being in the state of nafs al-Mutmainnah, where Allah the greatest is most pleased with us.
If you get the chance, please refer to chapter 4: 5-6 & 9-10 where Allah the greatest explains the true principle of honesty in dealing with orphans and their property and Mirza sahib said that honesty which lacks any of the requisites of these verses cannot be classed as a morale quality but they are only natural inclinations.
We talked about natural inclinations and morale qualities and why it is important to distinguish between them so we do not fall into the trap of seeming to resemble morale qualities but in fact we are in the natural inclination state. Mirza Sahab explains that natural qualities are transformed into morale qualities when a person refrains from doing an act upon the right occasion and after due consideration of the good and evil that is likely to result from it. Briefly, the concept of forgiveness is a good example to explain this. I think we all know that Allah the greatest wants us to forgive but He doesn’t want us to forgive blindly or unconditionally. This is where we need to apply our faculty of reason with the guiding principles of the HQ to determine if forgiving will benefit or perhaps is it better to refrain from punishing the culprit who has inflicted injury on you.
16:90 Surely Allah enjoins justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion. He admonishes you that you may be mindful.
Mirza Sahab explains that this verse decodes three stages of doing good and the third stage is the pinnacle of goodness and you cannot go any higher than this which actually perfectly aligns to achieving nafs al-Mutmainnah.
The lowest stage is when man does good to his benefactors only. Even an ordinary man who has the sense to appreciate the goodness of others can acquire this quality and do good in return. From this, there is an advancement of the second stage in which a man takes the initiative to do good to others. Though this quality is excellent, it occupies the middle position. The reason why this occupies the middle position is because the doer expects thanks or prayers in return and if the person whom good is done does not reciprocate, the doer feels ungrateful. “(O you who believe) make not your injury charity worthless by reproach and injury…” Injury means when the doer reminds the person relived of his obligation or boast about it. To attain the final stage man should not think of the good he has done nor expect even an expression of thankfulness from the person upon whom the benefit was done. The good should proceed with sincere sympathy like that which is shown by the mother to her children. Briefly Mirza Sahab also talks about how too much goodness can cause damage like excess rain damaging crops.