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The Heart and its Enslavement (Uboodiyyah)
  Uboodiyyah - Obsession of the Heart Part 1
Author: Shaikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah
Source: Al-'Uboodiyyah
Article ID : TZK020003  

By way of introduction it should be pointed out, both to muslims and non -muslims alike, that this treatise was originally written in arabic to an audience consisting predominantely of men. Furthermore, it was presented to a culture which did not analyse human behaviour on the basis of "sexism", or "feminism", but to an environment which was free of these modern day innovations. This is, perhaps, why the discussion is referred primarily to men. It should be pointed out that whenever the shaikh (scholar) refers to "men" that the discussion can be extended to incorporate a similar, if not the same, observation for women. Although during his life the great shaikh was taught by at least eleven female scholars of religion and would often refer specifically to women in many of his essays, perhaps, on the occasion of this dissertation, he was mainly involved in the sphere of men. Nevertheless, when one is involved in understanding Islam one should never allow anything to enter into discussion which does not have a basis within the Qur'an and the Sunnah (authentic narrations).

Shaikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah says:

When a man's heart becomes attached to a woman, even though she is lawfu l for him, his heart will be her captive. She controls him and manipulates him a s she wills. In appearance he is her lord because he is her husband or her posse ssor. However, in reality, he is her captive and is possessed by her especially when she knows his need and his passion for her. Then she will control him in th e same way in which a conquering, aggressive master controls an overpowered slav e who cannot escape from his master. Even worse than this is the captivity of th e heart; this is more severe than the captivity of the body, and enslavement of the heart is much more severe than the enslavement of the body. Verily, whoever' s body is subdued, enslaved and captivated will not care so long as his heart is reassured and is serene. In this way, it is possible for him to escape.

In the other case though, when the heart, which dominates the body; is s ubdued, enslaved and enthralled by love for other than Allah, then, this is inde ed mere humiliation and captivity. It is the humiliating Uboodiyah (enslavement ) that has subdued the heart.

The Uboodiyah of the heart and its captivity form the basis on which go od reward or bad punishment will be incurred. If a muslim is captivated by a kaa fir or is enslaved by a profligate and given no rights, it will not harm him so long as he can fulfil his duties to Allah Azzawajal. Whoever is lawfully subdued and fulfils the rights of Allah Azzawajal and the rights of his master will be rewarded twice. Even if he is forced to pronounce Kufr (disbelief), pronouncing it with his tongue but keeping Eeman (conviction, faith) in his heart, the utter ance will not harm him. But the one whose heart is subdued and becomes an abd ( slave) for other than Allah will be harmed by that even if he is a king. Freedom is the freedom of the heart and al-Uboodiyah (enslavement) is the Uboodiyah o f the heart. Similarly, well-being is the well-being of the soul. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam) said :"Well being is not how much wealth y ou have; but it is the well-being of the soul."

This, by Allah, is the case when a lawful image has enslaved one's heart . But whoever's heart is enslaved by an unlawful image will earn a torment more severe than any known torment.

These people who are obsessed by images are of the most severely punishe d and the least rewarded. For if one is obsessed by an image and his heart remai ns attached to it and subdued by it, he will be surrounded by so many kinds of e vils and corruption that they cannot be counted but by the Lord of al-Ibaad (th e servants) even if he were safe from committing the greatest Faahisha (obscenit y i.e. az-Zina - fornication). Continuous attachment of the heart1 without commi ting al-Faahisha is more harmful for him than it is for the person who commits a sin and repents of it. Since, afer true repentance the attachment and affectio n vanishes from his heart.2 These people are likened to drunk people or the insa ne. It has been said:

"They said you were driven insane by that which you have a passion for.I replied to them that passion causes more harm than insan ty."

As for this passion, the one who is obsessed by it will never awake unti l the end of time. However, the insane only exhibit their madness during certain periods.

Of the greatest causes of this affliction is the heart's turning away fr om Allah for when the heart senses the taste of worshipping Allah and sincerity towards Him, nothing will be more tasty to it than that; and nothing will be more delightful and enjoyable than that. A human being will not leave a lover excep t to replace him with another lover more beloved to him than the former, or he c an leave a lover fearing some harm. Verily, the heart will turn from a corrupt l ove to a righteous love, or from fear of imparting harm.

Allah Taaala said concerning Yusuf:

Thus (did We order) that We might turn away from him e vil and al-Fahshaah (illegal sexual intercourse)3

Thus, Allah turns away from His abd (servant) that which could be evil for him from the inclination towards images and the attachment to them. He also turns al-Fahshaah (the blatant sin) away from him when he is sincere to Allah. H ence, before he tastes the sweetness of al-Uboodiyah (Enslavement) to Allah and sincerity for Him, he will be forced by his soul to follow it's own passion. Bu t once he obtains the taste of sincerity and becomes strong in his heart, then h is passion will submit to Him (Allah) without any effort. Allah Ta aala said:

Verily, As-Salaat (the prayer) prevents the committing of Al-F ahshaah (the obscene, blatant sin) and al- Munkar (the evil) a nd the Remembrance of Allah is the greatest.4

Indeed, in As-Salaat (the prayer) there is repulsion of harmful things, i.e. Al-Fahshaah (the obscene blatant sin) and Al-Munkar (the evil conduct) and there is attainment of a beloved thing, the remembrance of Allah. The attainment of this beloved thing is greater than the repulsion of the harmful things. Veri ly, the remembrance of Allah is, by itself,a worship of Allah; and the heart's w orship of Allah is sought for itself, whereas the repulsion of evil from the hea rt is sought for other than itself. Instead, it is needed for something else. Th e heart has been created loving the truth, seeking it and striving for it; but w hen the will of evil confronts it, then the heart demands the repulsion of the e vil will because the latter spoils the heart as a plantation is spoiled with wee ds. That is why Allah Ta aala said:

Indeed he succeeds who sanctifies it (his own soul) a nd indeed he fails who corrupts it (his own s oul).5

And He, Azzawajal, said:

Indeed he shall achieve success who sanctifies himself and brings to mind the name of Allah and performs salaat (praye r).6

And He, Azzawajal, said:

Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to protect their private parts from sin. That is more sanctifying for them...7

And He, Azzawajal, said:

And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mer cy upon you, not one of you would ever have been sanctified. 8

Thus Allah Ta aala made the lowering of the gaze and the protection of the sexual organs from Az-Zinaa (fornication) as the strongest sanctification of the soul.

He also showed that avoiding blatant sins is a part of the sanctification of the soul. The sanctification of the soul comprises keeping away from all ev ils including blatant sins, injustice, shirk (associating partners with Allah Az zawajal) and lying.

The same is true for one who is seeking leadership and dominion on eart h. His heart is a slave to those who help him with his aim although he, in appea rance, is their leader and the obeyed one among them. In reality he has hope in them and fears them. He would offer them wealth and countries, and would overloo k what they have wrongly commited so that they would obey and help him with his aims. In appearance he is an obeyed leader while in fact he is their obedient sl ave.

The fact of the matter is that both of them manifest worship for each ot her and both of them have gone away from the actual worship of Allah. Moreover, if their mutual help is for an unjust dominion on earth, then they are on the le vel of those who mutually help each other to commit al-Faahishah (the blatant sins) or to cut off the way. Hence, each one of them, who originally was a slave a nd obsessed by his passion, becomes subdued by the other.

The same is the case of the one who strives for wealth; this wealth can obsess and subdue him. However, wealth is of two types: one type is that for whi ch al-'Abd (the servant) has a need, such as food, drink, shelter and marital li fe. This type should be asked for from Allah and should be sought for His pleasu re. Thus, this wealth, which a person uses for his needs, is of the same level a s his donkey which he rides, or his mat, on which he sits. Furthermore, it shoul d be regarded on the same level as a water closet in which he satisfies his need without becoming subdued or dismayed by it. Allah Ta' aala said:

Irritable (discontented) when evil touches him and niggard ly when good touches him.9

The other type of wealth is that which al-Abd (the servant) does not ne ed for his necessities. He should not attach his heart to this type of wealth. F or if he does attach his heart to it, he becomes subdued by it. Furthermore, he might begin relying upon other than Allah. Then, nothing of the actual worship w hich is due to Allah nor of the true reliance upon Allah will remain with him. I nstead, he will be pursuing a branch of worship of other than Allah and a brach of reliance upon other than Allah. This person is the most deserving of the sayi ng of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam): "May the worshipper of ad-Dirham be wretched. May the worshipper of ad-Dinar be wretched. May the wo rshipper of velvet cloth be wretched. May the worshipper of silk cloth be wretched."10

This person is indeed a slave of these objects. For if he asks Allah for these objects and if Allah grants him what he has requested, then he is please d. But if Allah denies him what he has asked for, he is upset. However, the true abd (servant) of Allah is the one who is pleased with what Allah and his Messe nger love and hates what is hated by Allah and his Messenger and will make alleg iance with the Awliyaa Allah (those near to Allah) and take for enemies the enem ies of Allah.

This is the person who has completed his Eeman (faith, conviction) as na rrated in the hadeeth: "Whoever loves for Allah, hates for Allah, and gives for Allah and denies for Allah has indeed completed Eeman."11 and he said: "The most strong of al-Eeman's (Faith's) ties is loving for the sake of Allah and hati ng for the sake of Allah."12


1. That is when the person is not mindful of Allah and not even striving to rem ove it (the image) from his own soul so that his Uboodiyah becomes purely since rely for his Lord. Thus in this case it cannot be considered an absolute evil and, hence, it cannot be more harmful than that which was mentioned about the other case. (Al-Albaanee).

2. That is because the continuous attachment of the heart to the image, according to the above detail, must force the person to disobey the Shareeah even in an aspect which is not directly related to the greatest Faahisha (blatant sin) s uch as neglecting some of his own personal obligations or those of whom he supports. (Al-Albaanee).

3. Surah Yusuf 12:24

4. Surah Ankabut 29:45

5. Sur ah Shams 91:10

6. Surah Ala 87:14-15

7. Surah Nur 24:30

8. S urah Nur 24:21

9. Surah Maaarij 70:20-21

10. Reported by [Bukhari & Ibn Majah] from Abu Hurairah.

11. Reported by [Abu Dawud] and it has good isnad (chain of narration).

12. Reported by [Ahmed & at-Tabarani] and it is Hasan.

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