Zuhd in Islam

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Zuhd in Arabic, encompasses both the Islamic concept of asceticism and more specifically the concept of renunciation. Asceticism involves a life of privation that lacks certain comforts and luxuries and early ascetics were often characterized by their poverty.[1] Renunciation involves detachment and an indifference towards worldly items.[2] Both of these concepts require one to shun a life of luxury in favor of a more pious and simple life.[3] Zuhd requires the renunciation of not only that which is prohibited but also that which is lawful. According to Al-Qushayri, it is an obligation to renounce that which is prohibited but to renounce that which is lawful constitutes a virtue.[4] Renunciation consists of two distinct interpretations. The first is external, which involves the renunciation of lavish clothing, food, comfort, sleep, accommodations, and human relationships. The second is internal, which involves the renunciation of intentions and desires. These two interpretations are often combined and used interchangeably when defining zuhd.[2] In Islam, zuhd is often attributed to Sufism and the mystics but the term is also used among common believers and is a tool for religious and spiritual development. The concept of zuhd enables one to perceive the greater importance of the spiritual over the physical.[5]

Stages of Zuhd[edit]

As stated by Al-Sarraj, zuhd is "the first step of those in quest of God Most High and Transcendent."[6] Al-Sarraj categorizes zuhd in three ranks. The first rank consists of those who have renounced worldly items. Both their hands and hearts are free of possessions. The second rank consists of people who have realized their renunciation meaning they have even renounced the honor and praise that comes with renunciation. The third rank consists of those who have become so separated from the world that they no longer have any recollection of why they were attached to such things in the first place.[6]

Importance to Islam[edit]

The virtue of zuhd constitutes a renunciation of pleasures such as material comforts so that one can focus entirely on living a life devoted to the service of God. Zuhd is said to create a shorter and steeper path to God because it involves not only the renunciation of that which is unlawful but also that which is lawful. Not only is the path short and steep but it is also narrower, due to its difficulty, than the common path that calls for only the renunciation of that which is prohibited .[7] When one reaches the final stages of zuhd he or she is said to also achieve tawwakul or "perfect trust and reliance on God".[2]

Examples of Zuhd[edit]

During her travels the Sufi master, Rabi'a was quoted to have said in response to a declaration from God, "When I heard this address, I so detached my heart from the world and cut short my hopes that for thirty years now I have performed each prayer as though it were my last and I were praying the prayer of farewell."[8]

Before he was executed Mansur Al-Hallaj was mutilated and his feet were cut off. Afterwards he said, "With these feet I made an earthy journey. Other feet I have, which even now are journeying through both the worlds. If you are able, hack off those feet!"

Farqad al-Sabakhī (Farqad Sabakhi), in response to those who commented about the food he was served, said, "Consider the worker, when he works, how he puts on his poorest clothing. Then, when he has finished, he bathes and puts on two clean garments. You have put on the clothing of leisure before working"[9] Al-Sabakhī believed that a person should not dress for comfort but dress instead in workers garments and only rest once he or she is in Paradise.[9]

An early Sufi by the name of al-Fuḍayl b. ʿIyāḍ said, "The servant’s fear of God is in proportion to his knowledge of Him and his renunciation of this world is in proportion to his desire for the next."[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Asceticism". Encyclopedia of Islam, THREE. Brill Online, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Zuhd". Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Zuhd". Encyclopedia Brittanica. Encyclopedia Brittanica Inc., 2013. 
  4. ^ al-Qushayri, Abu 'l-Qasim (2007). Al-Qushayri's Epistle on Sufism. Lebanon: Garnet Publishing. pp. 134–138. 
  5. ^ Rauf, Imam Feisal Abdul (2008). "Asceticism in Islam". Cross Currents 57 (4): 591–602. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  6. ^ a b Sells, Michael (1996). Early Islamic Mysticism. New York: Paulist Press. pp. 202–203. 
  7. ^ Rauf, Imam Feisal Abdul (2008). "Asceticism in Islam". Cross Currents 57 (4): 591–602. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  8. ^ Sells, Michael (1996). Early Islamic Mysticism. New York: Paulist Press. p. 165. 
  9. ^ a b "Farqad al-Sabakhī". Encyclopedia of Islam,THREE. Brill Online, 2013. 
  10. ^ "al-Fuḍayl b. ʿIyāḍ". Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online, 2013.