When the Ummah Deviated from the Actions of the Heart
“…The Companions and the righteous predecessors understood the Book of Allah and implemented it in knowledge and action, and they knew the importance of the actions of the heart such as sincerity, certainty, truthfulness, love, etc. As a result, they became true manifestations of complete servitude to Allah, and they knew that لا إله إلا الله was not just a phrase spoken on the tongue. They knew that the person – if his heart submits and becomes subdued and humble – must carry out certain deeds, and that his limbs must also become subdued. This is why their lives became a living manifestation of these realities of faith that their hearts were experiencing, may Allah be Pleased with them and they with Him.
What happened in the later years to some of Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah – and we are not talking about those who opposed them – is that they were afflicted with what others were afflicted with to a certain degree. They became afflicted with weakness, and their understanding became restricted and limited in their minds, and the whole concept of the Religion to them became nothing more than basic rituals, and the testimony that none was worthy of worship except Allah became a mere statement.
So, Ahl as-Sunnah no longer have the same strength and high esteem that they had during these previous three centuries or generations, because when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The best people are my generation, followed by those who come after them, followed by those who come after them,” this did not mean that those who came after these three generations were innovators or followers of desires. Rather, they were from the same group. However, they were much less in number, and they had weakness. While their characteristics did not expel them from the circle of Ahl as-Sunnah, they did bring them down from the high degree occupied by the first three virtuous generations who were the the ultimate manifestations of action, faith, and belief in this religion.
This is proven by the fact that the scholars who understood the reality of the actions of the heart and spoke about them were met with a bit of suspicion. Some even reprimanded them, and I am not talking about the people of innovation. Rather, some of Ahl as-Sunnah reacted as if these people were coming with something new, or as if this scholar was coming with something that had never been seen before, or that he at least was coming with something that they had not learned from their own scholars. For example, look to how suspicious they were of what was brought by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah or Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab. Some of the people were good and righteous, and did not like innovations or dabble in them, and they were around during and before the call of Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab. Despite this, they never called to what he called to, and they never revived what he revived because they were never exposed to what he was exposed to. However, along with Ibn Taymiyyah and Ahmad before him, he understood and knew that this belief consists of speech and action, and that if the heart is alive and moving, then the limbs must also move with life. So, the issue is not one of simple repetition where we just sit together and repeat our beliefs regarding Allah’s Names and Attributes, predestination, the Hereafter, etc., and that we each memorize all of this and then go home as guided people thinking we have attained blessing, knowledge, and virtue. There is no doubt that such a person really has attained much good, knowledge, and virtue thanks to Allah, and this is something great. However, the issue is much greater than this. These leading scholars learned just like the Prophet used to teach his Companions their faith before he would teach them the Qur’an.
Those who inherited this knowledge knew that it must be transformed into action, da’wah, struggle, and patience. Because of this, they moved forth in their lives. So, there was no way that Imam Ahmad would go along silently with the Ummah while it was deviating from the correct belief to a corrupt one even if he was harmed, beaten, whipped, or had everything else that you know of happen to him in the process.
Likewise, when Ibn Taymiyyah wanted to move this Ummah to Jihad, he was in the foremost ranks of the army. So, he fought the tawaghit of the Tatars, and he went in person to address them with the strongest of words. As for the Batinis, he would take his students with him and struggle against them by way of debate, and he would call the Muslims to fight the Crusaders. This is the true life in which the life and actions of the limbs come together with the life and actions of the heart. However, not every nation possesses this, and this is where Ahl as-Sunnah became deficient, and this was the situation upon the onset of the call of Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab.
Today, we live according to this belief and upon the remnants of this call, thanks to Allah, and we find within ourselves this clear weakness that shows that we have not implemented the actions of the heart as they should be. Even if we do generally avoid the innovators, the issue is bigger than just avoiding innovators. Rather, we should become stronger in our faith, certainty, sincerity, and da’wah. How many of the Muslims and students of knowledge do not even know the conditions of لا إله إلا الله, which are knowledge, sincerity, certainty, truthfulness, acceptance, love, and submission? If we go back to the actions of the heart that I was talking about, we will see that لا إله إلا الله necessitates these conditions which are the very basics of faith…This is enough of a sign that the Ummah has this clear shortcoming and deficiency…”