New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

The Foundation of Spiritual States

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2009-10-27

You should know, may God have mercy on you, that truthfulness and sincerity are the foundations of every spiritual state. Patience, contentment, true asceticism, pleasure, and intimacy are branches of truthfulness. While sincerity branches out into certitude, fear, love, majesty, shyness, and magnifying [God]. Each believer has a place in one of these stations, which he passes, and which then is the state he is known by.
    Hence, it is said of him, fearful, yet he has hope; or hopeful, but he has fear; patient, but he has satisfaction; loving, but he has shyness. The strength or weakness of every state is proportionate to the faith and spiritual maturity of the servant.
    The foundation of each of these states has three signs by which it is known. Truthfulness is in three things, which are not complete without it: Truthfulness of the heart in faith that is actualized; truthfulness of intention in religious actions; and truthfulness of expression in speech.
    Patience is in three things, which are not complete without it: Patience in avoiding those things God has forbidden; patience in [dealing with the difficulty involved in] following the command of God; and patience at the time of a calamity, while anticipating God’s grace. Contentment is in three things, which are not complete without it: [Being content with] little materially even though material means are available; with poverty when possessing nothing and the prospects of future abundance are lacking; and with the tranquility found in the worship of God, be He mighty and majestic, despite being steeped in poverty.
    Contentment has a beginning and an end. Its beginning lies in abandoning excess despite the existence of abundance. Its end is the existence of spiritual wealth despite material poverty and lack of worldly means. From this point of departure, one of the sages mentioned that contentment is a higher station than satisfaction. What he meant is complete contentment, because the state of one who is satisfied does not change according to his being denied or given. One who is content is enriched with his Lord. He does not seek any increase along with Him to assuage the desire of his soul—unless that increase is a gift from God to him.
    Abstinence is in three things, the ascetic is not called abstinent without them: Ridding himself of worldly possessions; passing up enjoyment of some lawful things; and being carefree because of the large amounts of time [devoted to God]. A man is a true ascetic if he is characterized by three other things: He protects his soul when tempted by his desires; he flees from opportunities to enrich himself materially; he only meets his needs with what he knows to be lawful.

A passage from Imam al-Muhasibi’s, Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, p. 218-219, translated by Imam Zaid Available at:





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