Summary lessons from the Ihya (3): Mysteries of Purity

Ihya series: Mysteries of purity

Whenever the word purification is mentioned, the concept that comes to most minds is the cleanliness of an object, so cleansing for rituals is automatically associated with purification of the body from filth. Imam al-Ghazali redirects our attention to the reality of purity. Purification is an integral part of worship but is not limited to cleaning some body parts. 

The transaction between us and Allah (God) is built upon purity, and the religion is of three levels; Islam (associated with the five pillars of worship), Eeman (the beliefs in the oneness of God), and Ihsan (the state of Excellence with God while perfecting Islam and Eeman). These are synonymous with; body (outward), mind (inward), and the soul (inward of the inward).

Purity has four stages:

Stage I – to be clean outwardly from filth.

Stage II – purification of the limbs (eyes, ears, tongue, stomach, private parts, hands, and feet) from crimes and sins.

Stage III- purification of the heart from blameworthy traits and reprehensible vices.

Stage IV – purification of the innermost core of our being from everything other than Allah (God), and this is the purification of the prophets and saints (most trustworthy in their actions and speech).

Explaining our journey to purity and returning to fitra (clean state, innate nature, or natural disposition to the oneness of God): In the creation of human beings, 

Allah (God) said; When I have shaped him and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!’ Suratul Saad (38) vs 72

“When the soul is breathed into the body, the body is animated; at that point, the relationship between the ruh (spirit) and the body is called the nafs (spirit uniting with the body). But that nafs, because of its new relationship with the body and the material world, has some difficulty. Generally, or unless it is from the Prophets of God who have the Tranquil soul, the nafs call to evil. If Allah (God) enlightens (shines a light on) the heart, it realizes the intrinsic desire to return to the permanent abode (paradise). Still, then it is overcome and remembers the immediacy of the world, then inclines towards it and continues to oscillate in this manner (being attracted to evil or good) depending on how much light Allah (God) causes to shine on it.”

Purification from actual and ritual impurities:

The science of Jurisprudence gives a detailed explanation of this type of purity. Purification from real and ritual impurities is generally with water and stone and water substitution with the earth’s dust when water is not available. Ritual impurities can also be referred to as cleaning impurities; we cannot see when it is done for the sake of Allah (God) and places or lifts a person from the state of impurity. 

Performing ritual impurities:

Major impurities – the performance of ritual bath (Ghusl) – to lift major impurities (e.g., after sexual intercourse) by intention and ensuring water touches all the body· 

Minor Ritual impurities – by ablution to enable the performance of prayer – Ablution has six integrals. They are; washing the face, washing both hands up to and including the elbow, wiping the head, washing the two feet up to the ankle, and performing the actions in the right order.· 

Tayammum (dry ablution) – It is a substitute when water is not available, or a person is unable to use water due to illness. It is a sort of blessing from God to enable people to go on with worship when water cannot be used. Its demonstration is also detailed in the Jurisprudence. It is not something to do anytime or any place. It is nullified by the things that nullify ablution, and the presence of water negates it. 

All outward things are a reflection of inner realities. In ablution, we purify places where human beings can see. However, a person should feel a sense of shame if he is before Allah without a purified heart. He (God) is aware of your inner state (the rancour, anger, jealousy, negative assumptions, preoccupation with the love of material things, etc.). Those who possess insight know that the heart’s purification is the most critical type of purity with these external indications. This is so because it is unlikely that when it is said, “Purity is half of faith,” it means the purification of the outer part of the body to leave the inward (heart) part. Otherwise, where does faith lie? In the heart! 

We see the obsessiveness of people with outward purity, just as it was a concern in the era of Imam Al-Ghazali, so it is in our generation, and it is even more prevalent. Furthermore, since faith is an internal conviction, it also means purification is half of what you cannot see. And it should include decorating the heart with praiseworthy attributes and ridding oneself of blameworthy traits. Cleansing and adorning then become the two activities for the purification of the heart. Cleansing precedes adornment just as we have in outward purity. So, when you approach Allah (God), ensure the heart is as clean as the body. 

Taking care of your purification is very essential as it is the key to salat (prayer) established in the Islamic Tradition. Salat comes from the root word to connect, meaning the key to connecting to Allah lies in purity. Make it a habit to scrutinize the subtleties of hypocrisy and injustice and every other sickness inside you. From the early believers’ stories, we read narrations of how inward purity was paramount; the Prophet’s companion, notably Umar (ra), accuses himself of hypocrisy. These show their utmost concern is the inward purity, and a slight stain on the heart makes them lose sleep. We must reflect purity inwardly and outwardly and not single out either of the two.

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