Allah, the Almighty, said:

{…But when it set, he said: I like not those that disappear.} [al-An‘âm 6:76]

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: "فَلَمَّا أَفَلَ قَالَ لَا أُحِبُّ الْآفِلِينَ"

Refinement is a test for the beginners. However, it is a beaten path for the seasoned practitioners. It is of three levels:

التَّهْذِيبُ: مِحْنَةُ أَرْبَابِ الْبِدَايَاتِ، وَهُوَ شَرِيعَةٌ مِنْ شَرَائِعَ الرِّيَاضَةِ. وَهُوَ عَلَى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ:

The first is refinement of service, whereby:

  1. it does not become spoiled by ignorance231

  2. it does not become tainted by habituation232

  3. it does not become the end goal of one’s resolve233

الْأُولَى: تَهْذِيبُ الْخِدْمَةِ:

  1. أَنْ لَا يُخَالِجَهَا جَهَالَةٌ

  2. وَلَا يَشُوبَهَا عَادَةٌ

  3. وَلَا يَقِفَ عِنْدَهَا هِمَّةٌ

The second is refinement of the ḥâl (state). It means:

  1. not drifting towards knowledge234

  2. not being captive to forms235

  3. not considering any egotistical interests

الدَّرَجَةُ الثَّانِيَةُ: تَهْذِيبُ الْحَالِ، وَهُوَ:

  1. أَنْ لَا يَجْنَحَ الْحَالُ إِلَى عِلْمٍ

  2. وَلَا يَخْضَعَ لِرَسْمٍ

  3. وَلَا يَلْتَفِتَ إِلَى حَظٍٍ

The third is refinement of the intention, and it involves:

  1. purifying it from the humiliation of compulsion236

  2. avoiding the flaw of lethargy237

  3. supporting it against the contentions of knowledge238

الدَّرَجَةُ الثَّالِثَةُ: تَهْذِيبُ الْقَصْدِ وَهُوَ:

  1. تَصْفِيَتُهُ مِنْ ذُلِّ الْإِكْرَاهِ

  2. وَتَحَفُّظُهُ مِنْ مَرِضَ الْفُتُورِ

  3. وَنُصْرَتُهُ عَلَى مُنَازَعَاتِ الْعِلْمِ

231 Since ignorance will beautify what is ugly and disfigure what is beautiful. It will lead one to choose the inferior over the superior and make them unable to sort out the times where they should be making provisions and watching the commands of their Lord and those where they need to behold the hand of God being in control of all things.
232 Some may become attached to certain acts of worship that they have become accustomed to, and in which they find comfort. This may make those acts ends, rather than means, to the pleasure of Allah. Renewal of the intention is always needed.
233 One should always aspire to better their service to their Lord and should never be content with the state of their worship.
234 Knowing the sheikh, it is clear from his life and writings that he is not asking us to ignore the Shari‘ah and knowledge of the scriptures. However, he may be asking us to avoid technicality or overconfidence in one’s knowledge or reliance on it. He may also be referring to cases where the knowledge may not be sufficient to guide someone concerning a particular incident. This is a case where one may count on inspiration (ilhâm) and intuitive perception (dhawq), as Imam Ibn Taymiyyah states, to find guidance. This is not dhawq and ilhâm to counter knowledge, but to complement it.
235 It is not about looking, speaking or acting a certain way, etc. What matters more than the ‘how’ is the ‘why.’
236 Do not make your relationship with Allah like one between a slave and his slave master. You are his slave and He is your Master, but He is not your slave master. He is your loving Lord, Healer, and Guardian. If you feel overwhelmed, lighten your burden (without neglecting the obligations) so that the journey to Him does not become unpleasant. Mujâhadah (striving) should be done with prudence and gradualness. Drive yourself to Him like you would drive a beast of burden on a very long journey.
237 By renewal of eemân and resolve.
238 The knowledge that will lead your niyyah (intention) astray should not be followed. The knowledge that will make you less observant of God and more permissive with yourself is harmful. The knowledge that will make you cunning and deceitful is destructive. The knowledge that will make you concerned only about the reward and punishment is not conducive to love.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


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

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj