Shaykh Yusuf da Costa: The unselfish heart

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Sometimes during our lives, we were primarily concerned about ourselves and perhaps our immediate family. When we look back at those years, in some cases decades, that have passed, we find that we have done very little for our own spiritual benefit and very little for others. Today as a senior person I have come to realize that what our Lord wants from us is not a selfish concern with ourselves but an open-hearted concern for others.

Especially in the last few years the way of thinking of many Muslims has centred around their material possessions and because of tight budgets they have very little to spare for others. I know we cannot change our whole community but the few of us who are in Tariqah can set different examples. When I look back at my own life I sometimes ask: To what degree have I used my allotted time to make a contribution to the lives of others, especially to their religious lives? I feel ashamed that I have done so little. There is no way of recalling the years that have passed; the years have been for one’s self and for one’s immediate family. I sometimes wonder whether there wasn’t much more that I could have done for the community in which I live.

When we call from the depths of our hearts to our Lord, how can we call only on the basis of our own personal ibadat or personal acquisition of knowledge? How can we stand in front of our Lord with our hands raised for His Repentance and Satisfaction, and we stand as selfish human beings? How can we do that? How different would it not be if we raise our hands to Him for help in one way or the other, and we stand there as participants in congregational dhikr, in the feeding of the poor, in the teaching of others, and in advising others? The difference in our supplication, the difference between selfishness and unselfishness, must surely make a major impact not only on the quality of our supplication, but also on the response of our Lord. Our hearts cry out to Him but in many cases these are selfish hearts but when an unselfish heart calls out to Him, how much better for our spiritual growth. Selfishness is not only expressed in the day to day things that we are not doing for our fellow human beings. It also impacts on the heart. The heart becomes selfish, and we think that what we are participating in for ourselves, is acceptable by our Lord.

This concept of sharing and of being for others in different kinds of ways runs through all of Islam. Sadaqat is a classic example of sharing and this comes out in the very beginning of the Qur’an when Allah Almighty describes the intensely pious, the muttaqun, as:

الَّذِيْنَ يُؤْمِنُوْنَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَ يُقِيْمُوْنَ الصَّلاْةَ وَ مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنْفِقُوْنَ

Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them (ii: 3).

One of the first lessons we are taught in the Qur’an about piety as a quality of the people of taqwa, is that they are encouraged to distribute from themselves what their Lord has given them. In other words, generosity or sharing with others what Allah Almighty has given one is one of the qualities of those who are pious.

You see, this quality of generosity that we are encouraged to have has to do with the fact that our Lord Himself is Absolutely Generous or Most Generous or All Generous. Imitating Him to whatever degree we can, with regard to this quality, places one on a path that takes one to high spiritual stations. It is difficult to understand this but the one thing that breaks the control of the ego over one is generosity. Allah Almighty, being Most Generous, has made available to us from His shoreless oceans of a variety of virtues, which He must have brought into existence primarily for us. We must understand this.

It is as a consequence of the generosity of our Lord that we receive so much from Him of sustenance, blessings, mercy and so much more, and when we receive sustenance or other distributable virtues, such as knowledge, we are encouraged to distribute those to others, and this brings about a greater flow of virtues from the heavens to us. When Allah Almighty grants us sustenance or knowledge and we distribute it, then this distribution becomes a cause for us receiving more sustenance and knowledge. In other words, giving sadaqat, for example, increases the different types of hasanat that Allah Almighty grants us. When we give sadaqat, there is not a decrease in that sadaqat, though it might appear to be so, but there is actually an increase in the different hasanat our Lord grants us. This is not for the selfish heart. This is for the unselfish heart.

Can you imagine the relationship that the unselfish heart has with those Names of our Lord, which describe His Generosity? It must be an amazing relationship. As we give others what we have been granted, our Lord grants us so much more, not only to compensate us or to encourage the unselfishness in our hearts, but also as a reward because of our consideration of others. Such people have very little concern for themselves or for their material possessions or what they eat, but they are happiest, a spiritual happiness, when they give to others or feed them or help them with what their Lord has granted them. The unselfishness impacts on all their other religious activities, because it is one of the primary purifiers of the heart. Through this purification of the heart on account of this generosity, the quality of other ibadat improves. When an individual gives out from what his Lord has granted him, this giving counteracts the negligence of religious service that is buried in the heart. I have found in my association with the intensely pious, that they are also intensely generous; and one can only assume that it is this generosity that has made a major contribution to the purification of their souls and their spiritual upliftment. I have not found a single pious individual who is stingy. Stinginess and piety do not go together. We ask Allah Almighty to grant us a generosity that impacts positively on our piety, amin.

[Unpublished 2012]


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