The Poor Man’s Book of Assistance

 There are three types of spiritual hearts:

  1. A sound heart;
  2. A heart which has no life; and
  3. A heart afflicted with spiritual diseases.

The heart afflicted with spiritual diseases is categorised further into the following:

  1. One with more life than spiritual disease;
  2. One where the sickness is preponderant and the life diminished; and
  3. One where the health and sickness are the same, but it is similar to the second in that a relapse may occur.

The disease(s) of the heart can be diagnosed by examining the following three:

  1. The symptom(s) that are evident through the actions of ones limbs (e.g. ghiba);
  2. The original cause of the disease (i.e. the ideology); and
  3. What the self inclines to by choice (e.g. would you rather go to the cinema or the masjid?)

Blinding of ones inner sight (baseera) is due to three :

  1. Enabling ones limbs to disobey Allah;
  2. Hypocrisy (Nifaq); and
  3. A yearning for what others have.

The ways to close the door of disobedience are three:

  1. Having a regime (Himya) including a suitable diet for the vehicle of your soul, the body. Eating quantities that don’t adversely affect one’s intellect or wellbeing. Finding a balance and sticking to it;
  2. Inhaling the fragrances of sincerity by keeping company of the sincere (You who believe! Have taqwa of Allah and be with the truly sincere (9:119)); and
  3. Using the powerful medicine of being reminded of the following three:
  • Being a stranger in this world, and often feeling alienation from ones own ego at times;
  • Remembering the struggle of moment of death; and
  • Remembrance of the day that you will be standing in the presence of Allah.

If you cannot close the above three doors to disobedience, then do the following three:

  1. Go on a leisurely retreat (Khalwa) – even if you’re not doing dhikr: [Shaykh Hamza mentions that the term leisure is meant in it’s traditional sense and does not mean you take this as an excuse to just watch TV, for example.] By taking this time out you will be forced to look at your nafs;
  2. Visit the graveyards alone, even if you’re not consciously reflecting; and
  3. Do istighfar even if its without hudoor and make abundant prayers on Prophet (upon him be peace). [Shaykh Hamza mentions that by doing so, the Sirat is made easier and it will incline the heart closer to the Prophet (upon him be peace). Sidi Ahmad Zarruq states that prayers upon the Prophet (upon him be peace) is considered “a Shaykh when there’s no Shaykh”].

Now, if you cannot close the door of disobedience by following the above three, then know that this is due to either:

  1. The fact that the matter is too weighty for your nafs; or
  2. That you are too preoccupied with the dunya.

Each of these will be examined in turn:

As for the first, know that this is a sign of stupidity and forsakeness (khidhlan) This is a proof of the weakness of your certainty and your faith, for which there are two treatments:

  1. You undertake the three points mentioned above in spite of yourself even if you have no natural inclination to do so. Don’t concern yourself with the benefits: just do it as an exercise and do not get obsessed with whether you’re doing it right, or for long enough, or as to how much you should be doing etc; and
  2. You have to undertake the three points mention repetitively until its completely fixed in yourself. [Shaykh Hamza summarises this as meaning “get to know this material really well” so that when tribulations happen you don’t get upset by them! Who made everything go wrong?”]

As for the second (the fact that you are too preoccupied with the dunya) – that is due to your own desires having overcome you and a love with what He Himself has taken upon for you. This is an unpalatable excuse. No matter who you are: you have time. Don’t fool yourself by saying you’re too busy.

Now, having noted the above treatments, if you cannot even do those then know that the three treatments are:

  1. Take one portion of your day or night where you are alone with yourself and look at what you did yesterday and today. Ask “What did I do for my heart?” “What did I do for my family?” Reflect of death’s preparation for you and what the grave entails;
  2. If you can’t do that then at least steal a day out of the week to do this exercise [i.e. reflect at what you did], or three days out of the month and make it like a debt you have to pay; and
  3. If you can’t even do that then make the day of arafa (once a year) in which you reflect on your life.

[Shaykh Hamza comments that “No one, on their death bed, says “I wish I spent more time at the office”. What they say is “I wish I learnt more Qur‘an, I wish I gave more to charity“]

Know that beyond that there is no hope.

Know that the foundation, the source of all the gatherings of righteousness and blessings, are three:

  1. Seeking the help and succour of Allah on the carpet spread of poverty and humiliation (dhaleel) even if this is for one moment during the day or night;
  2. Renewing your sincere effort in overcoming those blemishes that prevent you from arriving to your goal and by singling out your spiritual aspirations without hesitation or neglect; and
  3. Once having a realisation as to what you need to do, having the discipline in doing it.

[As an example, Shaykh Hamza mentions that Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah memorised the Quran after he was in his 20’s and ensured that his recitation was between Maghrib and ‘Isha every day.]

[Shaykh Hamza comments that success in all of the above will be aided by tawfiq but being obsessed with the details will hinder you. The nafs will obsess you in the details after which you lose sight of the goal.]

Now you know my brother [or sister], the path of tawba and the way to return after you’ve regressed. So if you stand before its door and it is having remorse about the past, realise its existence in your actions in that they are in accordance with it with consistency knowing that tawba from you to Him is tawba from Him to you.

[Shaykh Hamza mentions “in other words, recognise that your tawba to Allah is his returning to you. He opened the door for you to make tawba – that in itself is a blessing from Allah”.]

So, if after becoming firm in your resolve you lose it again then know that its because something you did. If your tawba to Allah is maintained and consistent, know that it is His generosity to you, because your action (I.e. tawba) is presenting yourself in the presence of the fragrances of His mercy. Your tawba is inhaling the fragrances of His mercy.

[Shaykh Hamza’s metaphor for this is like one passing by a rosebush and smelling the beautiful scent.]

[Shaykh Hamza then recites the poem by Rumi : “Return (in repentance), return! Whatever you are, return! Even if you are an unbeliever or a Magian or an idol worshipper, return! This court of ours is not a court of despair. Even if you have broken your repentance a hundred times, return!”]

[Know that your tawba is greater than any of your wrong actions.]

So understand O brother [or sister] and ponder your return to having a good opinion of Allah and reflect on your running away from your Master and feeling independent from Him. This should cause you to feel alienation that you want to remove no matter what your condition is.


This was a summary of CDs 1 – 4 of Sidi Ahmad Zarruq’s Poor Man’s Book of Assistance, available at Sandala Productions. Save minor paraphrasing when necessary no other modifications have been made, nor personal opinion used.

This entry was posted in Ahmad Zarruq, Purification. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Poor Man’s Book of Assistance

  1. Pingback: “The sahaba were converts” « brislamic

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