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5 Ways to Care for Your Soul

Adapted from a sermon by Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui. Originally published at

Allah who created us and knows our nature better than we do, desires for us that we know and understand our nature. And He desires for us a condition in which we consistently change.

Islam, indeed, is not about “to be”; it is about “to become.” That is why it is well-established in our deen that if my moment-now is the same as my moment-ago, or if my today is the same as my yesterday, then I am a deprived person. This teaching is even attributed in some texts to Prophet Muhammad.

Our Human Value is Based on Our Spiritual Reality

Allah in the Quran, and in so many ways, identified our nature for us when He tells us about the early human genesis and how He originally created the human being. He says:

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{Behold! Thy Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man, from sounding clay from mud molded into shape. So when I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, lay yourselves prostrate to him.} (15:28-29)

This basically teaches us about Allah creating the human being. We understand it as a process from our dimension, but really Allah does not need a process; He is not subject to time or causality. He created the human from clinging, dry clay whose origin is stinking mud. That’s our physical, material reality. Only when Allah says, {and breathed into him of My Spirit (ru)} does He order the angels to lay themselves prostrate. Only after that ru is breathed into that material body does He order that. [We understand this] without any imagining about how He breathed of His Spirit, for it is way beyond our comprehension.

Only when the ru was breathed in did the human being become one distinguished, by the grace of Allah, to have the angels lay themselves prostrate. Angels, whose origin is light! Therefore, the value of the human being is not on account of his or her physical reality or material origin, nor therefore material pursuits. But the value of a human being, as this ayah and many other indicate, is based on his/her rauani (soul-like, spiritual) dimension. That’s what makes us especially human, and worthy of having the angels lay themselves prostrate.

As a human being, I am bound by such texts and other more explicit texts, to look at everything of my life (material, intellectual, psychological etc.) in an envelope of my spiritual reality. All my experience of life: material experience, intellectual experience, psychological and emotional experience. I must understand and live them all within the envelope of my spiritual reality, because that is what identifies me as a spiritual human being.

  1. Monitor the Internal Heart

The spiritual nature/dimension that Allah emphasizes – how do I care for it? How do I care for that? I would say first, from the Quran and Sunnah, that I should observe, be mindful, and monitor the internal moods, changes, stirring, emotions, drives, conditions inside of me. I monitor them. Constantly. Muraqabatu khawair qalbi (observing the voices/movements of my heart).

And this needs struggle. And work. And work. And more work. So that, simply, as was beautifully said by earlier teachers:

“Allah should not – must not – find me where He prohibited me to be, and He must not miss me where He ordered me to be.”

This is usually mentioned in the context of external conduct and behavior. But now I am emphasizing in the spiritual reality and the internal dimension: that inside of me and you, we must monitor those conditions. So that our feelings, emotions, drives, priorities, desires, hopes, loves, hates, internal conditions are such that we are not in a hal (state/condition) that Allah does not love. Constantly I must strive to do that.

My internal dimension (to be the “spirit-me”), means that inside of me I must not entertain or allow feelings or emotions that are inconsistent with what He loves. Misplaced hate. Misplaced anger. Misplaced arrogance, delusion, ostentation…

This idea I summon and this I say —we do not emphasize at all. We might have a high I.Q. but we have a very low “S.Q.” We might have a very high I.Q. and know how to solve math, engineering, and practical problems. We might know how settle political issues and be brilliant political activists – all of that is depictive of a high I.Q., but we could be at the same time very low in our S.Q. They still have not identified nor invented the S.Q, it’s just our plausibility argument. [It stands for] “spiritual quotient,” which we have given up.

When the Prophet was asked: “What is Islam?”

He first replied:

“To lovingly surrender your heart (qalb) to Allah Most High.”

He also said, just to emphasize that we must monitor what we are internally all the time and constantly through a gradual, evolutionary, developmental approach:

“You must know that iman and internal greed which may or may not be expressed as external greed can never be joined together in the heart of a servant of Allah” (Nasa’i, Ḥakam). That’s a condition of the heart.

He also said in part of a longer hadith:

Iman and internally violent envy that stirs anger, high tempers, and restlessness do not exist at the same time in the heart of a servant of Allah.”

  1. Be of the Few Who Guard the Tongue

I think the first most essential parameter is to constantly strive to monitor what we are inside. What will help us do that is to guard our tongues.

The Prophet said to Mu’adh:

“What else besides the harvests of people’s tongues drags them on their nostrils into the fire of Hell?”

The tongues contribute to making the heart worse in its ailments. As the Prophet said in a hadith deemed authentic by many of the scholars:

“Beware from speaking much without dhikr of Allah, for much speaking without dhikr of Allah hardens the heart. And the most remote person from Allah is a person with a hard heart.”

  1. Remember Allah Ceaselessly

With that, to be mindful of the spiritual reality, is to be very, most-frequently in dhikr of Allah. This is well-established in jurists, scholars, and saints. But rare are those of us who are steadfast in practicing that.

Prophet Muhammad, the busiest of human beings and the most beautiful of intellect, was always in dhikr. Even in his moments of quietude and being silent, he was in dhikr. Even when he slept, he was in dhikr. His heart was always in dhikr. He said:

“My eyes sleep, but my heart never does.”

  1. Beg Allah for Help

Du’a is the umbilical cord that connects the human to the Divine. It’s the cord of spiritual life.

Allah says in the Quran:

{And your Lord says: “Call on Me” – (it’s a command!) – “I will answer you: but those who are too arrogant to do My ‘ibadah will surely find themselves in Hell in humiliation.”} (40:60)

The scholars say that the term ‘ibadah in this verse refers to du’a. Therefore one who does not have a regular diet of du’a of Allah is a person who is arrogant.

  1. Be Continually Aware of the Beyond

A spiritual dimension emphasizes and means that our being – our emotions, not only our intellect – are constantly aware of the Beyond. The spiritual realm of existence, if you will, of the Hereafter, of life after death, of the barzakh existence and reality, of the angelic realities…

Earlier I was in a conversation with a beloved brother who mentioned that nowadays in this country he thinks we should visit graves even more so. Maybe in some other places maybe you may deemphasize that, but now and here you must emphasize that even further. Because that’s a means to connecting to the realm of the spiritual. The Prophet said:

“Visit the graves, they remind you of akhira.”

Akhira is a spiritual reality – and consciousness of akhira is a spiritual dimension. If we do not connect with that dimension we will stay excessively and abusively attached to the material world and reality, and become dry.

I conclude with this: We must make efforts to change within us.

{Truly God will not change the condition of a people until they change that which is in themselves.} (13:11)