Imam Ghazaali’s Naseehat to a Fortunate Student and Disciple
The Virtue of Istighfaar, Thikr and Ibaadat in the Late Hours of the Night
Son! If mere knowledge was sufficient for you without the need for practical implementation then the Call of: “Is there anyone who is asking? Is there anyone seeking forgiveness? Is there anyone repentant?” would be futile. (This Call is sounded from the heavens during the late part of the night and on certain nights such as Lailatul Qadr, the whole night.)
It is reported that a group of Sahaabah (Ridhwaanullahi alaihim ajma’een) spoke of Abdullah Bin Umar (Radhiyallahu anhu) by Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said; “Abdullah is a good person; if only he offers Salaat during the night.”
Son! “And for a portion of the night offer Tahajjud Salaah” is an Amr (command of the Qur’aan), “During the pre-dawn moments they supplicate for forgiveness” is Shukr (gratitude) and “Those who engage in istighfaar pre-dawn” is Thikr. (In other words, you are required to engage in Salaat, Thikr and Shukr during the dark hours of the night.)
Nabi (Alaihis Salaam) said: “Allah Ta’ala loves three sounds; the cock’s crow, the sound of the Qur’aan being recited and the sound of those engaged in istighfaar during the hours preceding dawn.”
Sufyaan Thauri (Rahmatullahi alaih) said: “Allah Tabaaraka wa Ta’ala has created a breeze which blows before dawn and which carries istighfaar and athkaar to Al-Malikul Jabbaar (the Mighty King – Allah Ta’ala).
He also said:
“At the onset of the night a Caller calls out from beneath the Arsh: ‘Listen! Let the Aabidoon (Worshippers of Allah) stand in prayers. ‘Thus they stand and offer Salaat as much as Allah Ta’ala wills. Then a Caller calls out in the middle of the night: ‘Listen! Let the Qaanitoon (Obedient) stand in prayers. Thus they stand up and offer Salaat till the time before dawn. When the time preceding dawn (sahar) sets in the Caller calls out: ‘Listen! Let the Mustaghfiroon (those seeking forgiveness) stand.’ Thus they wake up and engage in istighfaar. When Fajr time sets in the Caller calls out: ‘Let the ghaafiloon (dreamy/forgetful ones) stand.’ Thus they get up from their beds like dead people being resurrected from their graves.”
Son! It is reported in the wasaaya (legacy) of Luqmaan the Wise that he said to his son: “O My Beloved Son! Let not the rooster be cleverer than you. It calls out before dawn whilst you are sleeping.”
Taa’at, Ibaadat and Mujaahadah
Son! The Essence of Ilm is to know what Taa’at and Ibaadat are. Understand well that Taa’at and Ibaadat mean to follow by word and to practise the commandments and prohibitions of the Shariah. In other words, everything you say, do and forsake has to be in keeping with the Shariah. For example, if you fast on the Day of Eid and the Days of Tashreeq (11th, 12th and 13th of Zil Hijjah) you will be a sinner. Similarly, if you offer Salaat with clothes which you took wrongfully from someone you will be sinning, notwithstanding the outer façade of Ibaadat.
Son! Your actions and statements should be in conformity to the Shariah, for Ilm and Amal without following the Shariah is dhalaalah (deviation). And do not be deluded by the bizarre utterances and extraordinary displays of the Sufiyah, because walking this path (Sulook) is by virtue of Mujaahadah (striving to fulfil the Commandments of Allah Ta’ala), severing the desires of the nafs and killing its passions with the sword of spiritual exercises, not through mystical utterances and paranormal acts.
Remember that a loose tongue and a fossilized heart which is erumpent with negligence and carnal passion are signs of ill-fortune. Thus, if you do not kill your nafs with true Mujaahadah your heart will never come alive with Marifat.
(From Ayyuhal Walad)