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Flame of Hope
06-13-2011, 09:44 PM
An Exposition of the Way in which a Man may Discover the Faults in his Soul.


Firstly, he should sit before a Shaykh who has insight into these faults and hidden weaknesses, and put him in authority over his soul, and follow the instructions he gives in connection with his struggle therewith.

Secondly, he may seek out a true, perceptive and religious friend, and appoint him to be the overseer of his soul, so that he notes his circumstances and deeds, and brings to his attention the inner and external faults, acts and traits which he finds dislikeable in him. This was the practice of the wise men and the great leaders of the Faith.

'Umar (may God be pleased with him) used to say, 'May God grant His mercy to a man who shows me my faults'. And he used to ask Salman about his faults when they met, saying, ''What things have you heard about me that you find dislikeable?' Salman pleaded to be excused answering this but when he insisted, replied, 'I have heard that you once ate two kinds of food at one meal, and that you have two sets of clothing, one to wear at night and the other for the day.' 'Have you heard anything else?' he enquired, and he said that he had not. 'These two things,'he said, 'I now renounce'.

It was ever the desire of religious people to discover their faults through being told of them by others; however, things have come to such a pass with us that the most hateful of all people are those who counsel us and draw our attention to our defects.

The third way is to learn of the faults of one's soul by listening to the statements of one's enemies, for a hostile eye brings out defects: it may happen that a man gains more from an enemy and a foe who reminds him of his faults than from a dissimulating friend who praises and speaks highly of him, and hides from him his faults. Although human nature is inclined to disbelieve an enemy and to interpret his statements as the fruit of envy, still, the man of insight, whose faults must necessarily be noised abroad in the statements of his foes will not fail to derive some benefit.

The fourth way is to mingle with people, and to attribute to oneself every blameworthy thing which one sees in them. For 'the believers are mirrors one to another', and recognize their own faults in the faults of others, knowing that temperaments are similar in the following of desire, and that every attribute in a man must be shared by his associate to some degree; thus one will come to scrutinise one's own soul and cleanse it of everything one finds blameworthy in others. This constitutes the highest degree of self-discipline. Were all people only to renounce the things they dislike in others they would not need anyone to discipline them.

Jesus (upon whom be peace) was once asked, 'Who taught you?' 'I was taught by no-one,' he replied. 'I perceived the ignorance of the ignorant man, and avoided it'.

[An excerpt from "Disciplining the Soul" by al-Imam al-Ghazzali]
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