Lovely observations. – ZS


from “Purification of the Heart”, Tape 10A. 

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson. 

Alhambra Productions: Hayward, California. 1998. 



[transcript begins after about ten minutes into Side A of Tape #10] 


“…But at this point, I wanted to go into a diversion that’s not really a diversion because it is very much related to this. 


Imam al-Ghazzali, rady Allahuanhu, identified four essential qualities—and this is in earlier traditions as well … you’ll find this in other traditions, this is not unique to Islam, but the Muslims recognised the truth of it and this is why our Imams adopted that model: Fakhruddin ar-Razi adopts it, and others … Imam Raghib al-Isfahani adopts it in his book on akhlaq; and Imam al-Ghazzali adopts it also. 

And it is a model that looks at the human soul and recognises certain qualities.  And Imam al-Ghazzali says there are four qualities in the human soul.  The four qualities that he identifies—the first one is called Quwat al-‘Ilm, and in the Western tradition they call it the rational soul—Quwat al-‘Ilm.  And that is that within the human being, there’s a power that by its nature is related to what man knows.   

And then the next one is called Quwat al-ghadhab, which is the irascible soul—which is in the human being, it’s the element that relates to his emotions, the basis of which is anger.  And it is interesting that Imam Jalaluddin ar-Rumi, rahimahullah, he once said that the wisdom for the prohibition of khamr is that most people are angry, and if they drink the root of their soul is exposed.  Because a lot of people become angry when they drink.  They become belligerent.  And so he said it’s like a veiling from Allah, you know, not to expose people’s inherent anger.  So most people, at the core root of their soul is this Quwat al-ghadhab: Anger. 

And then Quwat ash-shahwah—and I think I spelt it wrong, but it’s concupiscent soul, the soul that’s related to appetite.  The appetitive—I’ll use that word, ‘cause I can spell that.  [comment from one of the students here] … Yeah, that’s a college word.  The appetitive soul is the soul related to shahwah.  It’s your shahwaani nature—you have appetite. 

And then the fourth power is Quwat al-‘Adl, which according to Imam al-Ghazzali is the quwah that harmonizes these three, so that the human being is functioning healthy; none of these are out of balance. 

Now … these relate to … you find this in Western tradition and you find it in Muslim tradition.  The Muslims called them ummahaat il-fada’il; in the Western traditions they called them the four cardinal virtues.  And the ummahaat il-fada’il are wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.  In the Islamic tradition they call this hikmah, shaja’a, iffah, and adl

Now, when the rational soul is balanced, the result is hikmah.  And Allah subhana wa ta’ala says wa man yuta hikmah, fa qad ootiyah khairan katheera: whoever is given hikmah is given much good.  And hikmah, according to Imam al-Ghazzali is the mean between balaada and khid’a.  If the wisdom of the human being, in other words their intellectual … this Quwat al-‘Ilm, the rational soul … if it’s in want, the result is stupidity.  People do stupid things.  And if it becomes excessive, the result is trickery.  They become clever.  And use their intellect for manipulation, for tricking—exploiting people.  Which is an essential quality in order to get a job as a CEO usually.  CEOs tend to be people that have this excess of this Quwat al-‘Ilm, but they use it for manipulation. 

Now shaja’a is when your irascible soul, your ghadhab, is under control.  And it is a mean between two things.  It’s a mean between tahawwur, or impetuousness … irrational behaviour, where people completely lose control, they become angry—they don’t have any control ** themselves—and then they do things they regret afterwards.  That’s one level.  Or jabaana: cowardice.  They don’t have enough ghadhab, they’re too afraid to act.  And these are both extremes.  One is deficient (naqs), and the other is ziyaada.  And i’tidaal is from the hadith: khair ul-‘umoor awsatuhaa, ka dhalika ja’alnaaka ummat u’l-wasata: We made you a middle people.  A people of wisdom (hikmah), a people of shaja’a.  These virtues, if they’re balanced, they become qualities of the human being.   

And then iffah is the middle way of Quwat ash-shahwah.  And it’s a mean between jumood, which is where there’s no energy—indifference—they don’t have shahwah.  They really don’t have appetite … they’re not interested in the opposite sex … they’re indifferent to their shahawaat.  That’s called jumood, which is unhealthy.  The Prophet, sallallahualaihi wa sallam, didn’t like it.  And the excess of it is fisq, where somebody goes into … completely indulging in their appetite.  And they become somebody who’s a slave to their appetitive soul, and they lose that balance between those.  So, again, Quwat ash-shahwah, the balance is iffah—you become afeef.  And iffah is part of the shari’ah.  Allah subhana wa ta’ala, says that the ignorant people, when they see the poor Muslims, yahsibuhum aghniyaa min it-ta’affor.  They think that they’re rich because they have this iffah.  They’re not out trying to get money.  So they have this iffah, this dignity in their soul, that prevents them from going out and getting money through trickery and khud’a and things like this.  So it’s in balance. 

And then the adl is … it doesn’t have—it’s not a mean.  It has an opposite.  And the opposite is what?  Zhulm.  So adl, justice, is not in between anything.  It’s the opposite of zhulm.  So what you can see, then, is that when [the other three virtues] are in balance, you’re just.  And when they’re out of balance, you’re zhaalim: you’re oppressing yourself and others.  In other words, if you completely indulge your appetitive soul, you’ve become zhaalimun li-nafsihi.  You’re oppressing your soul because you’re doing things that the soul was not created to do.  Qoolo wa ashrabu wa laa tusrifu: eat and drink, but not to excess.  The middle.  Eat to what you need!  There’s actually … I mean It’s a science, now, you can determine, based on your body size … you can determine exactly, almost to the gram how many calories you need every day.  And if you eat more than that or less than that, you’re zhaalim

Now Allah, out of His Mercy to the human being, has created a natural state.  You’re in a fitra state when you’re healthy, so you’ll eat to where you feel satiated at a certain point.  And it becomes zhulm to your soul when you go beyond that.  And this is why the Prophet said, khairu sharru weeaa’in malahu ibnu Adam batnahu: the worst vessel that the human being—son of Adam—fills is his stomach.  It’s a zhulm to your stomach, because your stomach has a haqq.  And the haqq is that you leave one third for food, one third for water, and one third for air.  That’s the haqq and that’s the adaala.  If you go beyond that, then you’ve gone beyond the adaala of eating. 

The same with your sexual appetite.  The human being has a sexual appetite, that, if it’s expressed naturally, then he’ll be in a healthy state.  If he transgresses it and goes beyond it—and this is part of this whole now Viagra society, right?  Because for many people, as you get older, that aspect of the self should be diminishing as you look more towards akhira and these things.  Right, and so it’s very natural—but for people who don’t have akhira as a concern, they still want to be engaging in a shahawaat that’s, really, they should be moving away from, and directing themselves towards their akhira.  And so they go out and do all these things in order to fulfil their shahwah, which is, now, excessive shahwah!  It’s a mental shahwah, because the physical shahwah is no longer there.  The physical shahwah’s not there.  It’s become a psychological shahwah.   

So these are the balance of a human being.  Now, by blessing of Allah, according to Imam al-Ghazzali, the only human being that ever perfected—the balance of these four—was the Messenger of Allah.  He’s the only human being that was ever completely balanced in all three, which resulted in him being the most just of men.  So his character is completely just.  His nature is adaala.  And this is why the more you emulate him, in his behaviour, the more you become closer to being this just human being.  

For this reason, the Messenger of Allah did not fast all the time, because that would have been deficient in iffah—you’re not giving yourself enough.  Nor did he go to the other extreme, but he was in the middle.  He said, some days I fast and some days I eat.  Ashbawaajuu.  There’s a balance between the human being.  The Prophet, sallallahualaihi wa sallam, did not become angry when it was inappropriate.  He became angry when it was appropriate.  And this was his shaja’a.  He became angry when the state needed a mawqif.  Imam al-Ghazzali says that the only anger acceptable is to be angry in the right time, in the right place, to the right person, with the right amount! [chuckles]  And how do you do that?  By looking at the Messenger of Allah and what he did when he became angry.  Because he never allowed his anger to get the best of him to where he prayed against people … right, he never allowed his anger to get the best of him to where he struck people.  He didn’t.  He controlled it.  And that is shaja’a.  The Prophet, sallallahualaihi wa sallam, also, anaalamakum billah—he had more knowledge than any human being.  And it’s perfectly balanced knowledge.  There’s no … there’s nothing foolish in his behaviour.  He never displayed anything that would indicate that there was anything … imprudent … that was incorrect for someone to do who had wisdom.  Nor did he use his intellectual gifts for anything that was clever or tricker—trickery—he didn’t use it to gain dunya, he didn’t use it to do these things.  He used it for the sake of Allah, where it was appropriate.   

Now, one of the things—and this is, Imam Suyuti, rady Allahuanhu, said sometimes in his book, he said, lam yasfiq elayya fi hadha ahad: I didn’t seen anybody get this before me….   I have never seen this in a book, but I actually, I was reading Qadi Abu Bakr, rady Allahuanhu, and he mentioned about Abu Bakr.  He said, no-one was more courageous than Abu Bakr of the ummah after the Messenger of Allah.  And I started thinking about that quality of Abu Bakr, courageous, which resulted in a talk that I did called “Abu Bakr and courage”, and it was talking about this virtue.  But then I realised something about the Khulafaa Ar-rashideen.  Each one of them embodies one of these virtues as his dominant character.  Right? 

So you can see … obviously hikmah is Sayyidina ‘Ali because he’s Bab al-‘Ilm.  And shaja’a is Abu Bakr.  And everybody knows ’Umar the Just.  Now the only one I was worried about was ‘Uthman—does it really work?  And I looked up the word “iffah” to get the exact definition and immediately after it in the Qamus of Feroz Zabadi, he says: Waaffan is the afeef mubalagha—and his name is “‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan!” [chuckle]  And that’s what he was known for.  And if you think about it, what was he doing on the day he was killed?  He was fasting!  So his state is complete iffah: control … of his nafs.  And even the angels were shy before ‘Uthman—because he had so much iffah

So each one of them embodies one of these four virtues as a dominant quality.  But all of them—‘Ali was shuja!  ‘Ali was aadil!  ‘Ali was hakeem!  ‘Ali was afeef!  But the dominant characteristic is … hikmah.  That’s what he was given.  Sayyiduna Abu Bakr was aalim, he was afeef, he was aadil, but you can see, in his mawaaqif, shuja’a.  Because the courageous one is the one who does not waver when other hearts waver.  That’s the definition of courage is thabat ‘and al-masa’ib.  And if you look at all of these events that took place in the history of the sira, it was Abu Bakr who was thabit.  He was the one that never wavered when everybody wavered.  And that’s why the Prophet, sallallahualaihi wa sallam, said: I … presented Islam to everyone and the only one who didn’t waver was Abu Bakr.  His heart was shuja.  He was … he was … I mean, that’s his nature: shuja

So, now, there’s another really interesting thing about this….”