Pious Conscientiousness


Allah, the Almighty, said:

{And your clothing purify.} [al-Muddath-thir 74:4]

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وجَلَّ: "وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ"

Wara‘171 is meticulous cautiousness out of worry or conscientiousness out of glorification.172 It is the end of the station of zuhd for the public and the beginning of it for the mureed (seeker).173
It is of three levels:174

الْوَرَعُ تَوَقٍّ مُسْتَقْصًى عَلَى حَذَرٍ،أو تَحَرُّجٌ عَلَى تَعْظِيمٍ. وَهُوَ آخِرُ مَقَامِ الزُّهْدِ لِلْعَامَّةِ، وَأَوَّلُ مَقَامِ الزُّهْدِ لِلْمُرِيدِ.وَهُوَ عَلى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ:

The first level is the avoidance of that which is ugly

  1. for the protection of oneself

  2. for the growing and preservation of good deeds175

  3. for the safeguarding of eemân (faith)176

الدَّرَجَةُ الْأُولَى تَجَنُّبُ الْقَبَائِحِ

  1. لِصَوْنِ النَّفْسِ

  2. وَتَوْفِيرِ الْحَسَنَاتِ

  3. وَصِيَانَةِ الْإِيمَانِ

The second level is to stay within the bounds of that which is harmless

  1. to maintain integrity and piety

  2. to rise above lowliness

  3. to avoid trespassing the bounds (of Allah)

والدَّرَجَةُ الثَّانِيَةُحِفْظُ الْحُدُودِ عِنْدَ مَالَا بَأْسَ بِهِ

  1. إِبْقَاءً عَلَى الصِّيَانَةِ وَالتَّقْوَى

  2. وَصُعُودًا عَنِ الدَّنَاءَةِ

  3. وَتَخَلُّصًا عَنِ اقْتِحَامِ الْحُدُودِ

The third level is avoiding any call to

  1. dispersion177

  2. attachment to distractions178

  3. interferences that detract from togetherness (with Allah)179

والدَّرَجَةُ الثَّالِثَةُالتَّوَرُّعُ عَنْ كُلِّ دَاعِيَةٍ تَدْعُو إِلَى

  1. شَتَاتِ الْوَقْتِ

  2. وَالتَّعَلُّقِ بِالتَّفَرُّقِ

  3. وَعَارِضٍ يُعَارِضُ حَالَ الْجَمْعِ

171 This has also been translated as piety, extreme piety, pious caution, pious avoidance, etc.
172 Some avoid deficiencies out of self-respect. Devotional wara‘ is out of fear and glorification of Allah. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim comments here that he did not mention love, because love without glorification does not produce wara‘. However, one might also add that it is love with glorification that produces the greatest levels of wara‘.
173 Imam Ibn Taymiyyah has said, “Wara‘ is the avoidance of that which is harmful for your hereafter and zuhd is the avoidance of that which is not beneficial for it.” While there is overlap between wara‘ and zuhd, the zuhd of the mureed (seeker) goes beyond wara‘.
174 One may also add that what is to be avoided is of three levels: 1) ḥarâm, 2) makrooh and shubhah (doubtful), and 3) excesses of mubâḥ. The Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) had the greatest level of wara‘without excessiveness or fakeness. Due to the difficulty of practicing their level of wara‘, one must prioritize. One must avoid shubhah when it relates to the rights of others and when it is considered unethical or sub-ethicalby their society. For the student of knowledge who follows a madh-hab, transferring to another madh-hab for concessions is ḥalâl, but must not be done excessively whereby one picks all easy positions in all madh-habs. For the layperson without a madh-hab, the same applies to asking many different scholars.
175 For being busy with that which is suboptimal will ruin them or at least distract you from earning them.
176 For ugly conduct undoubtedly detracts from one’s faith, since faith increases with obedience and decreases with disobedience.
177 Losing the focus on seeking the Divine and His pleasure.
178 Because once the focus is lost, one gets attached to a myriad of pursuits and cravings.
179For vanishing (fanâ’) into this togetherness is considered by Imam al-Harawi the ultimate goal. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim comments here that baqâ’ (subsistence) in conformity to His will and in pursuit of His pleasures is higher because fanâ’ into Him is the servant’s desire and baqâ’ for Him and by Him is the Lord’s desire.
[All praise be to Allah, and may His blessings and peace be upon His final Messenger.
Wara‘ is important for every believer at all times. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

"دَعْ مَا يَرِيبُكَ إِلَى مَا لاَ يَرِيبُكَ"

“Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.” (Reported by at-Tirmidhi on the authority of al-Ḥasan ibn ‘Ali.)
Having said that, there are some important details to add here:
• Fake wara‘ is disgraceful.
One may not practice wara‘ from the excesses of mubâḥ while indulging in ḥarâm or shubuhât (dubious matters). The students of knowledge used to use each other’s ink-pots. Imam Aḥmad himself used to avoid that out of wara‘. However, when one of the students sought his permission to use his ink-pot, he said, “This is dark (i.e., flawed) wara‘.”
• Relativity is real and must be heeded by the preachers in our times.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said:
"‏ إِنَّكُمْ فِي زَمَانٍ مَنْ تَرَكَ مِنْكُمْ عُشْرَ مَا أُمِرَ بِهِ هَلَكَ ثُمَّ يَأْتِي زَمَانٌ مَنْ عَمِلَ مِنْهُمْ بِعُشْرِ مَا أُمِرَ بِهِ نَجَا ‏"

“You are in a time when whoever abandons a tenth of what he has been ordered is ruined. Then, there will come a time in which whoever does a tenth of what he has been ordered shall be saved.” (Reported by at-Tirmidhi with a controversial chain, yet it was authenticated by some scholars of ḥadeeth, and its meaning is consistent with the following legal maxim:
"إذا ضَاقَ الأمْرُ اتَّسَعَ"

“When a matter constricts, it eases,”
which falls under the following comprehensive maxim:
"المَشَقَّةُ تَجْلِبُ التَّيْسِيرَ"

(“Hardships warrant concessions.”)
• Picking concessions and wara‘
As mentioned above: For the student of knowledge who subscribes to a madh-hab, transfer to another madh-hab for needed concessions is ḥalâl, but must not be done excessively whereby one picks all easy positions in all madh-habs. For the layperson without a madh-hab, the same applies to asking different scholars until they find an answer that suits them. For the highest levels of wara‘, one may avoid all things that were forbidden or discouraged in any madh-hab, unless he/she is certain of the validity of the easier opinion.
• Plan of action
˗ Leave that which is ḥarâm
˗ Then, the shubhah that pertains to people’s rights
˗ Then, the makrooh that takes away from your integrity and spiritual dignity
˗ Then, what is considered sub-ethical in your society—consideration of norms and customs
˗ Then, as your state of eemân rises, advance as tolerated, while watching your wara‘ and verifying that it is sincere and genuine]

Manâzil as-Sâirin


Shaykhul-Islam Abu Isma‘il Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari al-Harawi (396-481H)

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj