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by Hamid Lea 

The Beginning of Pure Intention.

In the Name of GOD, the Merciful, the Beneficent, the One who initiates all things – what has past - what is & what will be & peace and blessings be upon all the Messengers who came with the purest of intentions and the most praiseworthy actions.

Where is the source of pure and good intention? That source has to be pure. For the Sufis the ultimate source is GOD Himself. He creates what is pure and purifying. He is the Pure, the One free of imperfection who can purify anyone regardless of his or her state. We also know that He accepts only what is pure.

We therefore need to look to the purity of our intentions and to be aware that whether we hide that, which is within our hearts, or reveal it, GOD knows it. The Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of GOD be upon him, is reported to have said, ‘Intention determines the worth of a person’s actions and he will attain what he intends. If someone travels to another place with the intention to please GOD and His Messenger then his journey is for this purpose and if he travels seeking the attainment of some worldly matter, or for the sake of marrying a woman’ – and as such his journey will be reckoned for that particular object. 

Here we are in a material world where arguably the most important possession is good intention, which is clearly invisible & immaterial. It is intention, which gives meaning and spiritual reality to what we are doing. 

Just how pure are our intentions. How can we know? The believer understands purity of action to mean an act that is free of any selfish motive and is undertaken purely seeking the good pleasure of our Creator. This sounds easy but in reality, it can be difficult and tricky. For example, someone could be giving a talk on Pure Intention and think that they are sincerely imparting useful knowledge when in reality they are seeking public recognition and praise. In such a case, the person would be judged to have no sincerity to GOD and no reward. This is because they are unknowingly making partners with GOD in that they are seeking the pleasure of Creation above the pleasure of the Creator. This is called hidden polytheism or ‘shirk’. It has been likened to a black ant on a dark rock in the middle of the night. You cannot see it. You are not aware of it but it is there. This is sometimes described as seeking only the face of (Allah). This does not literally mean that the Creator has a face in a way similar to our own. There is a saying from the Quran, ‘Wherever you turn there is the face of Allah meaning that the Creator is recognised in all that He has created. The act that is done with a pure intention has a lasting reality whereas the action founded on selfish intention is essentially a lifeless form that will be blown away as if it were dust. What is with GOD continues. What is with other than GOD vanishes.

Surely, we have to look behind the intentions to see what state our heart is in. However, how can we know our own heart? Sometimes we cannot connect with our true nature because of the veil of the self and the whirlwind of whims and desires that seems to constantly ‘blow’ around our soul. Sometimes this causes so much confusion that we cannot discriminate truth from falsehood to the extent that we accept falsehood as truth and vice versa.

So how can we become more self aware:-

·       If we want to know our state and to purify our intentions we can reflect on what is happening around us for the outside world can be a mirror to our inner state.

·       Looking in the mirror however can be difficult and uncomfortable at times because we do not like to change. We are comfortable with the way things are. This is why it is important to have a sincere and wise companion who can give good advice and provide a true reflection.

·       It is all very well to be given reflection on our state but sometimes we want to change but just cant. This is why the good counsel and advice from those who have already attained great inner purity is important. Nevertheless, not every good person has the ability to impart a truly effective spiritual education that we can accept and implement.

·       We also need to be present in what is happening to us. Most of all we need to be present with GOD but this is very difficult. It is however easier to travel this difficult path under the guidance of a realised spiritual teacher – but still it is not easy.

·       Reflection on our state and keeping good company is important but we need to make effort. One way to know if our intentions are sincere is if we undertake action, which is hard on the self. There is nothing as hard on the self, as that which is true.

·       There is another less obvious indication of the purity of intentions. Are we careful about what we eat how good and pure it is and the source of the money we earn and spend on our self & others? 

·       For the believer in GOD there is another reality check on the purity of intentions, which is the extent to which one is immersed in the constant remembrance of GOD (dhikr), secretly and openly. The dhikr has many amazing qualities.

·       It is Divine in origin, it is a cosmic reality. As Galileo said, ‘The heavens declare the glory of GOD’.

·       The dhikr is pure in its self. The self has no part in it

·       The dhikr as well as being pure is a purifying agent. It has an active ingredient that removes the veils and stains from the heart.

·       With the practice of the dhikr the light of GOD enters the heart  and one sees with the light of perfection and have growing  love and compassion for all of creation. With the experience & tasting of the Presence all else is nothing. However, even here in the purified realm of the dhikr intention is all-important. As on teacher said: ‘It is on you to remember GOD much and that you seek with it the Face of GOD – and not a share in this world or your rights in the Next World - then you attain the pleasure of GOD and he who attained the pleasure of GOD has attained his desire.

 There are indications that the dhikr is being done, as it should be:-

·       The dhikr begins to refine ones behaviour and character

·       Our spiritual curiosity becomes more refined - a sign that the subtle reality of the invocation is penetrating the heart.

·       Love grows in the heart

·       There is greater respect for the boundaries of the Path. Crossing of the boundaries results in the loss of spiritual benefit - like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it.

·       With the spiritual states and experiences that come with the invocation there is a growing awareness that there are limits to purely intellectual understanding for the Path is essentially about hearts

Following somebody for the sake of PURIFYING oneself. 

In our day and age of individual freedoms, liberty and democracy the idea of taking guidance from someone for the sake of increasing in inner purity is increasingly questioned. The idea of companionship for the sake of purity is even less mainstream. This is no accident nor is it irrational but is the consequence of false and insincere guidance and it has to be said some insincerity on behalf of those seeking the truth.  If we are looking for guidance that is pure and true what sort of people should we be on the look out for. To conclude here are a few indicators:-

·       Is this person from the people of dhikr, or from the people who are negligent about remembering GOD?

Indeed, there is no difference between the living and the dead, except with the dhikr of GOD. The Prophet said, “The example of one, who remembers GOD and someone who does not, is like the example between the living and the dead”.

·       Although they may be eloquent speakers do they exceed the limits in their actual behaviour

·       Do their words match their actions

·       Do they neglect those actions of the path, which are essential for them to do – even if they walk on water or fly through the air this is not a proof of truth, purity and sincerity.

These are thoughts we may have about others but how truthful are we about the purity of our own intentions and actions. This is the big question and is often the hardest to answer. 

Seeking purity of intention and realisation through companionship.

We have looked at the means to good and pure intention, but where are the people who have achieved this and how would we recognise them. One thing we have established is that they will continuously remembering GOD. They will not be judging from their whims and desires. They will be truthful and their actions will be fruitful.

Let us look back in history and see who is there. There are the famous Prophets & Saints (men and women) known for their truthfulness, deep wisdom, piety, and forbearance under oppression and their ability to touch and transform the hearts and thus the intentions of ordinary people. Then there are their sincere disciples & companions who received spiritual illumination through a strong love and sincere and faithful companionship.  

So here we are today in our own world, outwardly very different from the low technology societies of bygone ages but inwardly the hearts are the same and the needs are the same. So presumably, the people of pure hearts are still among us. Who are they? What are they like?

If you  would like to share some experiences of meeting people who have inspired you by their deep spirituality, their  constant remembrance of GOD, real sincerity, noble character and immense generosity. In particular, say something if you can about how keeping company with them helped you become a better person. Send your experiences by email to: email@sufiway.net

Sharing with you some of the aspirations and practices of the Sufis, shows there is indeed common ground. One thing that particularly marks out the Sufis is the emphasis on the practice of invocation.

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