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Data Ganj Bakhsh & His Discourse on “Tazkiyah” By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

“Purity is half of the faith”. Qur’an has also explained it in this verse: “And by the Soul (Nafs), and the One Who perfected man in proportion; indeed, whoever purifies his own soul, succeeds and indeed, whoever corrupts his own soul, fails.”

Data Ganj Bakhsh & His Discourse on “Tazkiyah” By Ghulam Rasool DehlviOne of my favorite hadiths or prophetic anecdotes teaches: “Purity is half of faith, prayer is a light, charity is proof, and patience is illumination”.   The Arabic word meaning ‘purity’ in this prophetic tradition is ‘Taharat’ which encompasses two spiritual dimensions: (1) taharat-e-batini, inner purity and (2) taharat-e-zahiri, outward purity. Through avoiding evil thoughts and engaging in continuous spiritual contemplation (dikr) Taharat-e-Batini or inner purity can be attained by a clean and pure thought cycle. It directly helps the heart and mind to be pure and sound, cleansing them from spiritual illnesses like anger, hatred, jealousy, selfishness etc. Nevertheless, Taharat-e-Zahiri or external purity is accomplished by properly preserving the physical cleanliness — for example, making wudu (ablution), taking a shower (ghusl), using fragrances or perfumes (itar) and keeping the house and clothes clean and tidy.

One of India’s earliest Sufis, Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh Hijweri states in his mulfuzat (Sufi discourses): “After iman (faith in God), the Sufi life style’s most imperative link is Taharat, which includes both kinds of cleanliness: body and mind purity. Just as meditation or devotion without Taharat-e-Zahiri can not be embraced, so can wisdom or ma’arifat not be achieved without Taharat-e-Batini. Often known as tazkiyah (soul purification), the latter is. The Sufism or tasawwuf practice is, in fact, nothing but tazkiyah. Tazkiyah empowers us to curb all the evil forces (quwwah-e-wahmiyya), violent thoughts (quwwa-e-ghazabiyya) and animalistic urges (quwwah-e-shahwania). So Prophets, their nearest companions (Sahaba) and Sufis used to profess the tazkiyah and practice it. Sometimes they would urge: “Purify yourself, you won’t have any sickness.” They have therefore pointed to different types of disease arising from moral and spiritual illnesses.

A saint of the Sufi Naqshbandi writes that Tazkiyah is the basic Islamic teaching on which all Sufi teachings are based. Throughout the Sufi view, the purification of Nafs (spirit) (Tazkiyah) includes the purity of all the soul’s faculties including Qalb (heart), Ruh (spirit) and Aql (mind). Therefore, soul purification or Tazkiyah-e-Nafs requires one to escape all the baser instincts that prevent a person from being divine. In the course of Tazkiyah, not only major sins such as hate, deceit, libel, but what is considered as minor evils such as backbiting, anger, envy, greed etc. are also fully annihilated. Anyone who treads Tazkiyah’s road must be fully conscious of all this.

S/he will continually engage in self-assessment of the actions s/he has taken. An honest introspection is required to determine that mind and heart are purged, one by one, from all Nafs’ evil impulses and thus determine the purity of the soul (Tazkiyah). That is the wider sense of the Prophetic saying: “Purity is half of the faith”. In this verse, Qur’an also explained: “And by the Soul (Nafs), and the One Who perfected man in proportion; indeed, whoever purifies his own soul, succeeds and indeed, whoever corrupts his own soul, fails.” (91:9-10)

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