In a previous post, I compiled some of my favorite gems from Imam ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah (swt) have mercy on him). Imam ibn al-Jawzi, who is often confused with ibn al-Qayyim, is yet another scholar who has popular works on the heart and soul. Outside of books on purification, ibn al-Jawzi wrote extensively on tafsir (exegesis), fiqh (jurisprudence), and hadith (prophetic narrations). He was born in 1114CE in Baghdad. After his father passed away, he was under the care of his mother and aunt. They brought him to the masjid to learn from the scholars at the tender age of six. He became a jurist in Baghdad and wrote his first book at the age of thirteen. He was a prolific writer, having written a total of 700 books.
A few gems:
The Alternation of Days
Know that time does not remain at a stand-still, for Allah subahnahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says:
وَتِلْكَ الْأَيَّامُ نُدَاوِلُهَا بَيْنَ النَّاسِ
“[…] And these days [of varying conditions] We alternate among the people […]” (Qur’an 3:140)
One time it is poverty, and another time it is wealth. Once it is honor, and another it is humiliation. So the happy one is the one who remains well-grounded in each situation, and he is the one who has taqwa (consciousness) of Allah (swt). For if he is wealthy, it beautifies him and if he becomes poor, the doors of patience open up for him. And if he is healthy, he recognizes the blessings upon him. If he is tested, he bears it all. The alternation of days does not hurt him—no matter if he is elevated, or if he is starving.
This is because all of these situations change and do not remain constant, but taqwa (God-consciousness) is the foundation of peace. It is the guard that does not sleep, taking you by the hand when you slip. And the disgraced one is the one who is deceived by the sweetness of his present situation without having any taqwa. Soon enough that situation will change and he will be a loser.
So, hold tight to taqwa in every situation. You will only see vastness in every confinement and well-being in every sickness. This is the wealth of the present, and what the future holds is known.
Supplication of the One in Hardship
When a calamity befalls the believer, he begins making du`a’ (supplication) constantly, but he may not see any sign of response for some time. When he is close to despair, Allah (swt) looks into his heart to see if he is pleased and content with the Decree, and not hopeless or discouraged. If this is his situation, then the response comes quickly. This contentment and pleasure in Allah (swt)’s Decree is what reforms and fixes the iman (faith) as well as destroys Shaytan (the devil). That moment when the believer is close to despair is when the real men are determined.
This is seen in the statement of Allah (swt):
حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَىٰ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ
“[…] until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said,’When is the help of Allah?’ […]” (Qur’an 2:214)
And this is what occurred with Jacob (Ya’qub, peace be upon him)—after he lost two children, he did not despair, rather he said:
عَسَى اللَّهُ أَن يَأْتِيَنِي بِهِمْ جميعا
“[…] Perhaps Allah (swt) will bring them to me all together […]” (Qur’an 12:83)
And likewise with Zakariah (peace be upon him)—he did not despair even with old age from having children:
وَلَمْ أَكُن بِدُعَائِكَ رَبِّ شَقِيًّا
“[…] And never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy.” (Qur’an 19:4)
So, be aware of why the response is delayed! Understand that He is The Master, and that He is The Most Wise in planning, and Most Knowing of what will lead to the reformation of His slaves. Know that He wants to put you through trials to test what you hide in your heart, and that He wants to see your humility, and that He wants to reward you for your patience. Know that He wants to test you with a delay in response so that you can fight the whispers of Shaytan.
Indeed every one of these things strengthens the recognition of His Favors and leads to being thankful to Him. Thus when the trial begins, the supplications are lengthened, and the one in hardship shows his need and takes refuge in Allah (swt)—he will be content with everything.
Satan tricks people in whatever way he can, and his power over them increases and decreases according to their alertness or negligence, their ignorance or knowledge. Note that the heart is like a fortress, and the devils are always going around the fortress watching for the guards to become heedless. The guard should know all the gates of the fortress which he has been appointed to guard, and he should not let his attention slip for a moment, for the enemy never lets his attention slip.
—Talbees Iblees (Dr. Bilal Philip’s translation)
A Wake-Up Call
O you who persists in mistakes and wrong doings; O you who has turned away from what the most Loving and Compassionate commands; O you who obeys the falsifier of the path and the creator of calamities—How long are you going to insist on your misbehavior? How long are you going to keep yourself distant from your Lord? How long will you seek from this world what you cannot have, and keep away from the other world by that which you cannot possess? Neither are you sure of what Allah (swt) prepared of sustenance for you, nor are you satisfied with that which He has commanded for you. O my brother, by Allah (swt), admonition does not seem to benefit you. Afflictions do not seem to threaten you. Time does not leave you, and the call of death does not reach your ears. As if, you poor man, would live forever and you weren’t meant to expire and be forgotten!
—Bahr ad-Dumoo’ (Translated by Shazia Ahmad)
Who is the real poor person?
One should implement what he knows for it is the greatest foundation. And the poor person, the truly poor, is the one who wasted his life learning that which he does not practice. So, he loses the pleasures of this worldly life and the goodness of the hereafter, coming forth bankrupt (on the Day of Judgment) with strong evidences against himself.