Spiritual Remedies with the Drexel MSA Week 1

A note on texts and “tradition”:

“When artistic objects are separated from both conditions of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which esthetic theory deals. Art is remitted to a separate realm, where it is cut off from that association with the materials and aims of every other form of human effort, undergoing, and achievement.” — John Dewey, from Art As Experience.

A note on “spirituality”:

وما تقرب إليّ عبدي بشيء أحبّ إليّ مما افترضْت عليه

“My slave does not draw closer to me with anything more beloved than by what I have made obligatory upon him.” – al-Bukhari.

Raison d’être:

وهذا الكتاب موضوع لاستعمال قانون الصواب من خلال الباطن وكفّ كفّ الهوى عن المؤذى منها وعلاج ما خرج لموافقة الشهوة عن القانون الصحيح

“The purpose of this book is to put to work the law of good sense through the channels of the heart and mind so as to constrain unbridled passions from causing harm as well as to treat habitual actions of passions which contradict sound law.” – Ibn al-Jawzi.


اعلم أن جميع ما وضع في الآدمي إنما وضع لمصلحته إما لاجتلاب نفع كشهوة المطعم أو لدفع ضر كالغضب

“Know that the entirety of what God has allotted mankind is for his benefit; either the acquisition of some benefit, such as the desire for food, or the warding off of harm, such as the capacity for rage.” – Ibn al-Jawzi.

 A note on “destroying the nafs:

Desire itself is not the enemy here, and thus “killing your desires,” or “killing your ego,” is not only not the goal of all of this, but most certainly unobtainable. Many of these phrases have come from Greek sources (philosophy, logic) and have crept their way into the Muslim discourse on tazkiyyah, or self-purification, without being asked to “show their papers.”


فإذا زادت شهوة المطعم صارت شرها فآذت

“However, if one’s appetite for food should increase unchecked it becomes gluttony, and thus harmful.” – Ibn al-Jawzi.

 Similarly, Ibn al-Jawzi adds:

وإذا زاد الغضب أخرج إلى الفساد

“And if anger is increased it will manifest as perversion.” – Ibn al-Jawzi.

A reminder on what this course is about:

إنما يعرف فضل الشيء بثمرته

“The excellence of thing is known by its fruit.” – Ibn al-Jawzi.

Part of all this is to train one’s “nafs” like one would train one’s reflexes or impulses so that they become instinctive. So much of sin is wrapped up in our impulses yet we as a faith community seldom talk about, one, the need for impulse control, and two, practical and behavioral methods by which the average Yusuf and Mariam might implement them.

One of the goals of tazkiyyah is to train your “nafs” to “feel the right action” instead of either being overwhelmed by troubling scenarios or reacting to every difficult encounter with a set of Sahih al-Bukhari.

Part One – The ‘Aql:

(يعني العقل) يترك العاجل للآلج, وبه فضل الآدمي على جميع الحيوان الذي فقده

“(The mind) taught enabled man to relinquish this hasty life for The Next (to where you will tarry). For this reason, man has superseded all of the animals, who have been deprived of having it.” – Ibn al-Jawzi.

What are desires/Hawa?:

الهوى ميل الطبع إلى ما يلائمه ولا يذّم هذا المقدار إذا كان المطلوب مباحا, وإنما يذم الإفراط فيه, فمن أطلق الهوى فلأن الغالب فيه ما لا يحل أو يتأول المباح بإفراطه

“Passions/Hawa are the inclination of one’s natural character or disposition to whatever pleases it and should not be condemned in as much as what is sought is permissible. However, it should be disparaged when one is excessive in following desires. That being said, when passions are criticized altogether, it is because either the object or action is impermissible, or because people often interpret lawful means to excessive ends.” – Ibn al-Jawzi.

Stay tuned for Week Two’s notes.