If somebody should ask me what I have found to be the most difficult Islamic principle to implement in my life, and to implement in the lives of the murids, I would say it is to work solely for the sake of Allah Almighty. This principle is difficult to implement not only in our day-to-day religious activities (like the salah) but also those activities which have to do with working in the Cause of Allah Almighty.
In one of the more well-known Traditions, Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) said that the religious service in which there is even a grain of riya’ is rejected by Allah Almighty. Riya’ means to do things for other people’s eyes, ears, personal knowledge, and also to satisfy one’s own personal desires. All of these are extremely difficult, for each one of us. It is already difficult to be able to carry out one’s day-to-day religious activities in such a way that it is purely for Allah Almighty’s sake, or to perform these activities with only Allah Almighty in one’s mind. Many of us fall critically short when it comes to these different forms of ibadat, and, of course, we depend strongly on our Lord forgiving us for these shortcomings in our daily religious activities. When we pray, so many things occupy our minds. When we recite, in whatever we are busy with, it is so easy for riya’ to take over. We all experience this; even the best of us, but Allah (ﷻ) knows His servants. He knows their weaknesses. He knows the activities of their minds, and He knows the content of their hearts. He knows especially our weaknesses as human beings and our weaknesses as servants. We can pretend to others but we cannot pretend to our Lord. Perhaps this is the difficult part; that one has to turn and twist one’s personality in all kinds of ways to at least “face” in the direction of our Lord in one of the many religious activities we are busy with. Many times we fail hopelessly, but our return is always to Him.
The most difficult part of all of this is when one is busy with the Cause of Islam. In many cases deep down in the crevices of our hearts, our egos play games with us and make us consider ourselves important in relation to these jobs, or we see ourselves as occupying important critical positions in activities associated with the Cause of our Lord. We are human beings and the programming of our hearts prior to us coming into Tasawwuf, still impacts on the programming that Tasawwuf is trying to achieve. I heard the other day of somebody who threatened not to do a particular job anymore because he was questioned about how he was doing the job. And so the pre-Tasawwuf programming and the ease with which satanic garbage is able to enter his heart prior to his coming into Tasawwuf still operate devastatingly. I hear this quite often when people tell me that they don’t want to do a particular job, because they are being criticized or whatever the case might be. I carry these problems and try to convince the individual to continue with his work. So many cases of this nature have come to me over the last few years. The fact that people are working in the Cause of Allah Almighty has no meaning or it is forgotten as their egos take over. I find this extremely strange, because I know that I am in no position to ever throw in the towel. That is not for me. I cannot tell Mawlana that I don’t want to do this job anymore. In fact, the idea has never entered my mind.
At times I feel, and I want each one of you to understand this, that I have to tip-toe with certain individuals not to offend them in any way in case they decide to give up their jobs. Strange isn’t it? Some people knowing that I need them, although I know that they are not indispensable, act like budding prima donnas that I have to handle with care. But you see, I also do this not because of me but because of them. I know that if they leave their jobs in the organization or leave the organization, because of the jobs, either way, they are destroying whatever spiritual gains they might have had. And just as one has to control one’s anger to protect people from themselves, so I have to protect people from themselves when it comes to their personality quirks that come into operation when they work in the Cause of God. I find this so strange. Perhaps this is one of the difficulties of my job; to protect people from themselves.
Why am I telling you these things? To cry on your shoulders? No, I am in a sense beyond all that. I am telling you all of these, because, as I’ve said on numerous occasions, working in the Cause of Allah Almighty is extremely rewarding but, and this is a big but, if one is not prepared to overcome one’s egoistic problems and program oneself very strongly to be only for Him in His Work, then of what value is that work to one’s spiritual development? At times I suppose there is nothing written in one’s Book on account of one’s hidden arrogance, because this is what it is all about. People are unable to see or to recognize their shortcomings, because of who they think they are, or perhaps what they think they are. We are all equally guilty of these things. We are busy with holy works, work that has to do with the sacred and works, which provide us with wonderful opportunities for spiritual progress, but somehow the nature of this work and what it can mean for us are not recognized.
I do not wish for myself and for anybody else that we should miss the boat in our struggle to obtain some spiritual station, but each one of us must be extremely careful about what we say and our reactions to situations. This applies even if one is right; for being right can be the best sustenance for an arrogant soul. We must all be very careful. We must subdue our egos and work very hard to take out of our souls those negative qualities which interfere with our progress. If we don’t do this, we are going to breed in ourselves qualities that are going to deter our progress. We call on Allah Almighty for assistance in all of these, amin.