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Purify your Soul

هُوَ ٱلَّذِى بَعَثَ فِى ٱلۡأُمِّيِّـۧنَ رَسُولاً۬ مِّنۡہُمۡ يَتۡلُواْ عَلَيۡہِمۡ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ وَيُزَكِّيہِمۡ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ وَٱلۡحِكۡمَةَ وَإِن كَانُواْ مِن قَبۡلُ لَفِى ضَلَـٰلٍ۬ مُّبِينٍ۬

It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom – although they were before in clear error.[1]


All praise is for Allāh, who created the soul and fashioned it. We ask Allāh to praise and grant peace upon the Messenger, his family and followers.

Over the course of the last bank holiday weekend MRDF organised an amazing conference for the family on the theme of purification of the soul. For me, personally, it was a wonderful experience. Lectures and workshops were designed to tackle and address issues related to the soul and its purification. At the end of the event I left feeling motivated to better myself.

The subject in my view is essential for character building required for creating good leadership. For the benefit of those who did not attend and for the wider audience I have compiled this article. What is presented is a humble effort to give an overview of the subject. It is not a summary of the conference, neither is it a detailed study of this very much needed topic.

What is tazkiyat-nafs?

The word tazkiya has two connotations, the first is purification and the second is growth and increase. Both meanings are applicable to the topic at hand. Tazkiya entails purifying oneself from damaging qualities while at the same time acquiring praiseworthy traits.

Why is tazkiya important?

First and foremost, the issue is highlighted by the fact that Allāh takes eleven oaths before stating that purifying the soul is the cause of success.


وَٱلشَّمۡسِ وَضُحَٮٰهَا (1) وَٱلۡقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَٮٰهَا (2) وَٱلنَّہَارِ إِذَا جَلَّٮٰهَا (3) وَٱلَّيۡلِ إِذَا يَغۡشَٮٰهَا (4) وَٱلسَّمَآءِ وَمَا بَنَٮٰهَا (5) وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَمَا طَحَٮٰهَا (6) وَنَفۡسٍ۬ وَمَا سَوَّٮٰهَا (7) فَأَلۡهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقۡوَٮٰهَا (8) قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ مَن زَكَّٮٰهَا (9) وَقَدۡ خَابَ مَن دَسَّٮٰهَا (10)

By the sun and its brightness

And [by] the moon when it follows it

And [by] the day when it displays it

And [by] the night when it covers it

And [by] the sky and He who constructed it

And [by] the earth and He who spread it

And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it

And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness,

He has succeeded who purifies it,

And he has failed who instils it [with corruption].[2]

Secondly, the soul can be an obstacle to getting closeness to Allāh. It stands between the heart and getting closer to the Creator. The messenger of Allāh frequently sought refuge from the evils of the soul. Souls are characterised as one of three: tranquil, self-reproaching, and inciter of evil. Only by tazkiya can the soul be tamed to be tranquil. Another very significant reason is that the entry into Jannah is conditional on preventing the soul from evil:


But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination. Then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.[3]

All the pillars of Islām serve as tazkiya for a Muslim. Uttering the Shahādah purifies a person from disbelief.


And woe to those who associate others with Allāh –

Those who do not give zakah, and in the Hereafter they are disbelievers.[4]

Ibn Abbas is reported as saying: “meaning those who do not testify lā ilāha illallāh”. Further to this, the five daily prayers wash away sins in addition to preventing the performer from evil.

Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allāh is greater. And Allāh knows that which you do.[5]

Zakāh purifies the donor from stinginess while bringing blessing to the remaining wealth.

Take, [O, Muḥammad], from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase, and invoke [Allāh ‘s blessings] upon them. Indeed, your invocations are reassurance for them. And Allāh is Hearing and Knowing.[6]

Saum trains the servant to exercise patience and restraint.

The Messenger of Allāh said, “When any one of you is observing Saum (fasting) on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language nor should he raise the voice; and if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: ‘I am observing fast.’”[7]

Ḥajj prohibits the pilgrim from using bad language, sins and getting into disputes.

Ḥajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Ḥajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Ḥajj.[8]

Purpose of tazkiya

Tazkiya is a process adopted to become a better slave of Allāh, to attain complete servitude, consequently, getting closer to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). In the well-known ḥadīth qudsi, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) clarifies how to reach this high station.

The Messenger of Allāh said, “Allāh the Exalted has said: ‘I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawāfil (prayer or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) until I love him. When I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks (something) from Me, I give him, and if he asks My Protection (refuge), I protect him”.[9]

Methods to achieve tazkiya

Tazkiya was one of the core roles of the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).

It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom – although they were before in clear error.[10]

His companions are a testament to the fact that he fulfilled his mission, conveyed the message and the left the Ummah upon clear pristine guidance. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) faced a people steeped in idolatry, injustice and immorality. The transformation that took place over twenty-three years of his Daʿwah was a miracle. It is the most ‘incredible revolution that happened in human history’. No other man or in fact Prophet changed a people more than the final Prophet.

“This revolution that the Prophet caused in the souls of Muslims and through them in human society is the most incredible in human history. The revolution was incredible in every way. It was incredible in its speed, its depth and scope. Incredible in its clarity and ease of understanding…”

He revolutionised every facet of society; religious, economic, social and political life were completely transformed. His legacy lives on long after him. Undoubtedly the first three generations of the Muslims represented the best example of the fruits of his mission.

The best of my Ummah would be those of the generation nearest to mine. Then those nearest to them, then those nearest to them…[11]

They were best at everything. They had the best Īmān, character, knowledge, and the best deeds. As ʿAbdullāh b. Masʿūd described, they had the best hearts amongst this Ummah. They were truly purified from their former selves. A clear conclusion to draw from this is that real tazkiya is only achieved through following the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) practice.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyum elaborates on this point stating,

“Purification of the soul is harder and more severe than treating bodies. Purifying oneself through (spiritual) exercise, perseverance (mujāhadah) and seclusion (khalwa), not brought by the messengers, is like the sick who treats himself with his opinion. Where does his opinion stand with the knowledge of the doctor? The messengers are heart doctors. There is no way to purify the hearts or rectify them except through the Messengers and at their hands by complete compliance and submission to them”.[12]

Practical steps in tazkiya

i. Purify

Rid yourself of bad character such as shirk, riya, arrogance, hatred, jealousy, anger, stinginess, love of this life over the hereafter, overindulgences and not working hard in life.

ii. Grow

Nourish the soul with Tawḥīd, sincerity, love, hope, fear, reliance upon Allāh, repentance, patience, gratitude and good behaviour with people.

iii. Fulfil the obligatory duties

Nothing will bring you closer to Allāh than carrying out His commandments as the ḥadīth quoted earlier categorically shows. There is no shorter or quicker way to Him other than the path He set for us.

iv. Increase in optional acts of worship (nawāfil)

These voluntary deeds continue to bring a servant even closer to Allāh until He loves the servant. We should choose the acts that have the greatest benefits including:

Optional Salah

Twelve rakʿah sunnah every day

“A house will be built in Jannah for every Muslim who offers twelve Rakʿah of optional Salāt other than the obligatory Salāt in a day and a night (to seek the Pleasure of Allāh).”[13]

Qiyam al-lail

The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “The best month for observing Ṣaum (fasting) next after Ramaḍān is the month of Allāh, the Muḥarram; and the best Salāt (prayer) next after the prescribed Salāt is Salāt at night (Tahajjud prayers).”[14]

Salāt ad-Ḍuḥā

Abū Hurairah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) reported:

My friend (the Messenger of Allāh) directed me to observe fast for three days in every month, to perform two Rakʿah (optional) Ḍuḥā prayer at forenoon and to perform the Witr prayer before going to bed.[15]

The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “The Salāt of the penitent (awwabīn) is to be observed when the young camels feel the heat of the sun (i.e., when it becomes very hot).”[16]

Optional Siyam

Monday and Thursday

The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) used to observe fast on Mondays and Thursdays.[17]

Three days every month

“… and observe fast for three days during the month; for every good is multiplied ten times and that will be equal to fasting the whole year.”[18]

The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “If you want to observe Ṣaum on three days in a month, then fast on the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth of the (lunar) month.”[19]

Optional charity

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

“Two angels descend every morning, and one says: ‘O Allāh, give him who spends something, in place of what he spends.’ The other one says: ‘O Allāh, give destruction to him who withholds”.[20]

Ḥajj and Umrah

The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,

“(The performance of) ʿUmrah is an expiation for the sins committed between it and the previous ʿUmrah; and the reward of Ḥajj Mabrur (i.e., one accepted) is nothing but Jannah.”[21]

Mentioning Allāh (dhikr)

The Prophet said,

“The similitude of one who remembers his Lord and one who does not remember Him, is like that of the living and the dead.”[22]

1. Read the Qur’ān

The Qur’ān is a guide, mercy and cure for the diseases of the heart and sickness of the soul. In the Qur’ān you will find ikhlās (sincerity).

And they were not commanded except to worship Allāh, [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakāh. And that is the correct religion.[23]

From the Qur’ān you will learn love, hope and fear.

Say, [O Muḥammad], “If you should love Allāh, then follow me, [so] Allāh will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allāh is Forgiving and Merciful.”[24]

They arise from [their] beds; they supplicate their Lord in fear and aspiration, and from what We have provided them, they spend.[25]

Through the Qur’ān you will acquire tawakkul (reliance).

“And upon Allāh rely, if you should be believers.”[26]

Patience and certainty, the two qualities needed for leadership in Islām, are learnt from the Qur’ān.

And We made from among them leaders guiding by Our command when they were patient and [when] they were certain of Our signs.[27]

2. Duʿā’ (supplication).

Allāh is the one who put this soul into your body. Turn to Him for protection from its harm. Ask Him to purify your soul.



“‏اللهم إني أعوذ بك من العجز والكسل، والبخل والهرم، وعذاب القبر، اللهم آت نفسي تقواها، وزكها أنت خير من زكاها، أنت وليها ومولاها، اللهم إني أعوذ بك من علم لا ينفع ومن قلب لا يخشع، ومن نفس لا تشبع، ومن دعوة لا يستجاب لها‏”

“O Allāh! I seek refuge in You from the inability [to do good], laziness, cowardice, stinginess, infirmity and torment of the grave. O Allāh! Grant me the sense of piety and purify my soul as You are the Best to purify it. You are its Guardian and its Protecting Friend. O Allāh! I seek refuge in You from the knowledge which is not beneficial, and from a heart which does not fear [You], and from desire which is not satisfied, and from prayer which is not answered.”[28]

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] Al-Qur’ān, 62:2

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 91:1-10

[3] Al-Qur’ān, 79:40-41

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 41:6-7

[5] Al-Qur’ān, 29:45

[6] Al-Qur’ān, 9:103

[7] Al-Bukhārī and Muslim

[8] Al-Qur’ān, 2:197

[9] Al-Bukhārī

[10] Al-Qur’ān, 62:2

[11] Muslim

[12] Madārij as-Sālikīn

[13] Muslim

[14] Muslim

[15] Al-Bukhārī and Muslim

[16] Muslim

[17] At-Tirmidhi

[18] Al-Bukhārī and Muslim

[19] At-Tirmidhi

[20] Al-Bukhārī and Muslim

[21] Al-Bukhārī and Muslim

[22] Al-Bukhārī and Muslim

[23] Al-Qur’ān, 98:5

[24] Al-Qur’ān, 3:31

[25] Al-Qur’ān, 32:16

[26] Al-Qur’ān, 5:23

[27] Al-Qur’ān, 32:24

[28] Muslim

About Sheikh Abu Talha

Abu Talha has been regularly involved in teaching and speaking about Islamic issues for over fifteen years.He undertook his Arabic and Islamic studies at the renowned Islamic University of Madinah where he graduated with BA (Hons) in Shariah and a Diploma in Arabic language. While in Madinah he was blessed to learn from some of the scholars in the Prophet's Masjid. Formerly, he worked as a full time Imam and Khateeb at an Islamic centre for a number of years. Along with his Islamic education, Abu Talha is a qualified and experienced language teacher and holds a Masters in Education and Applied Linguistics.​


  1. Tonima Shahed

    Masha Allah, JazakAllahu Khairan for posting the articel.

  2. Ahmad Abdurrahimm

    Alhamdulillah. Jazakumullah to the entire staff of Islam21c for this enlightening article. Wallah, I have learnt a lot of knowledge on heart/soul purification from the rather short explanations contained in the article, and this has given me a drive to further research on this topic. Thank you so much, and may Allah grant you Aljannah. Amin.


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