al-Nasiha (The Advice) by Sidi Ahmad Zarruq
Know (may Allah give you and us success, and rectify
our worldly and other worldly lives and grant us
adherence to way of the truth in our journeys and
in our sojourns) that:
Repentance is a key. And Taqwa [awareness and fear of
Allah] is vast. And Uprightness (Istiqama) is the
source of rectification. Furthermore a servant is
never free of either blunders, or shortcomings, or
lassitude. Therefore never be neglectful of Tawbah
[repentance], and never turn away from the act of
returning to Allah (SubHana Wa Ta’ala ), and never
neglect acts that bring you closer to Allah (SubHana
Wa Ta’ala ). Indeed, every time one of these three
occurs, repent and return.
Every time that you make a mistake, listen and obey.
Any time you display shortcoming or lack of
enthusiasm, don’t desist in your efforts. Let your
concern be to remove from your outer state anything
that is displeasing, and then maintain its outward
state from continuous advice. Continue doing this
until you find that your fleeing from anything
outwardly displeasing is second nature, and your
avoidance of the boundaries of prohibited things is as
if it acts like a protective net that is placed before
you. At this point, it is time to turn inward, toward
your hearts presence, and to its reality with
both reflection (tafakkur) and remembrance (dhikr).
Don’t hasten the end result before you have completed
the beginning. But likewise, don’t begin without
looking toward the end result. This is so because the
one who seeks the outset at the end loses providential
care (‘inaya); and the one who seeks the end at the
outset loses providential guidance (hidaya).
Act in accordance with principles and the appropriate
legal rulings (ahkam), and not in accordance with
stories and fantasies. Dont even consider stories of
how things went with others, except as a tonic to
strengthen your resolve.
Certainly not as a reference based upon their outward
forms (zahir), or what they seem to be telling us. In
all of this, depend upon a clear path you can refer
and a foundation that you can depend upon in all of
your states. The best of these is the path of Imam Ibn
Ata’illah [author of the al-Hikam; d. 709 H /1309]
(may Allah be pleased with him!), given that in it is
a clear direction to Allah.
Do not take from others’ words unless it is in
accordance with your own path, but submit to their
implications if you desire realisation.
Avoid all forms of vain and foul speech to your
absolute utmost. Put aside anything that you cannot
discern its benefit immediately.
Beware of being extremely hard on yourself before
you’ve obtained a mastery over it. But also beware of
being too lax with it, in anything that concerns
sacred rulings. This is so because it is constantly
fleeing from moderation in everything, and it inclines
towards extremism in both matters of deviance and
Seek out a companion to help you out in your affairs,
and take his advice concerning matters that occur from
both your inward states (batin) and your outward
affairs (zahir). If you do indeed take his
companionship, then treat him in a manner commensurate
with his state and give him of your advice based upon
his inabilities and abilities, because a perfected
friend is no longer to be found. Indeed, in these
times even a suitable companion who is agreeable
And beware of the majority of people in matters that
concern your religious and your worldly states, unless
you have ascertained he has some sound relationship
with his Lord based upon a knowledge that is free of
his caprice (hawa’) or love of leadership, and a sound
intellect free of the pitfalls of hidden agendas. Do
not be heedless of the machinations of others or their
hidden states. Consider these two from both their
origins and their actions. A person of character and
family-distinction rarely affects you with other than
And yet a person of low origin’s roots usually cause
him to disregard you when times get tough.
Be extremely vigilant of the dominant qualities of a
given people in any given land, and don’t be heedless
of the Divine Wisdom in the creation. And notice
gathered-ness and separation, some of this we have
already covered in our book Al-Qawa’id [The
Principles], so take a look at it there.
Organize your time in a manner appropriate to the
time-specific needs using gentleness and toleration.
And be very wary of either harshness or laxity. This
is so because too much laxity concerning permissible
matters pulls the heart backward in its journey, until
even a man of resolve [or a serious person] ends up
looking like a foolish boy.
Work for this world as if you would live forever, but
work for your next life as if you would die tomorrow.
Thus do not neglect the externals of your worldly
needs. In the meantime do not be heedless of your end
and final resting-place.
Be extremely vigilant about avoiding positions of
leadership, but should you be tried with such matters
at least know your own limitations.
Be absolutely sincere to Allah with the sincerity of
one who knows full well Who is placing demands upon
Surrender completely to His Decree (qadr) with the
submission of one who knows he can never overcome Him.
Have a firm foundation for all of your affairs and you
will be save from their pitfalls.
Organize your devotional practices (‘ibada), and you
will find your time extended due to the barakah
[blessings] in it.
Never be fanatical about anything, whether it is the
truth or whether it is false, for your heart will then
remain in a state of soundness towards others.
Never claim anything you are entitled to – not to
mention what you’re not entitled to – and you’ll be
safe from tricks and treachery. This is so because
anyone who claims some rank above his own will fall in
humiliation. Whereas those who claim a rank they want
will have it stripped from them. While those
who claim a station less than their true rank will be
elevated to even higher levels than they actually
Never give your companion anything of your state other
than what his own state wants. This is so because if
you go down to his level, he will show you contempt.
Whereas if you attempt to raise him up to your level,
he will abandon you.
Never demand a right from anyone whether an intimate
or a stranger. The reason for this is a stranger in
reality owes you nothing, and someone close to you
is too precious to direct your blame to him.
Never assume that anyone in this world can really
understand your circumstances other than from the
perspective of his own circumstances. This is so
because in reality everyone only sees things in
accordance with their frames of reference and their
personal path. However when aims, purposes and
aspirations are similar, people tend to work together
toward a common goal.
Never belittle any talk that involves absent people,
even if there is no harm in it due to the possibility
of harm entering into it.
Guard your secrets even if you feel safe with someone,
because the one you divulge your secret to is not a
safer place than your own heart from whence it
Never leave an atom’s weight of your regular
devotional practice (‘ibada). Never be lenient with
yourself in either lax times or times of high
resolve. Indeed, should you miss some of your practice
in a given time, redress [or replace;qada’] it in
another time. If you’re not able to do your usual
practice, at least occupy yourself with something else
Never obey your ego (nafs) even for a moment, nor
believe any of its claims no matter what it tells you.
Be vigilant about your resolve in all of your affairs
to your utmost. In fact,should you resolve to do
something, then do it immediately before the resolve
Examine your soul constantly in matters that you are
obliged to do, or are needed to be done. Anything you
are in no need of doing, leave it. Even if it is
something that is recommended. That means not
involving yourself in anything other than absolutely
necessary things, and real discernable needs.
Treat others just as you would want to be treated, and
fulfill to them what is due to them.
All of this is really epitomized in the words of the
poet when he said,
If you desire to live such that your religion is safe,
And your portion is full and your honor is sound,
Guard your tongue and never mention another’s faults
Remembering you yourself have faults and others have
Watch your eye;
Should it ever reveal to you the faults of others
Say to it, “O my eye! Other people have eyes too!”
Live treating others well, And avoid aggression.
And should others aggress against you, Leave them but
in the best way.
The source of these words is in fact nothing other
than the Ahadith of the Prophet (may the peace and
blessings be upon Him!) when he said, “Be vigilant of
Allah wherever you are, and follow a misdeed with a
good deed, and it will remove it. And treat others
with the most excellent of character.”
In another, he (may the peace and blessings be upon
Him!) said, “every child of Adam makes mistakes, and
the best of those who make mistakes are those who seek
to redress them. Again, the Holy Spirit [i.e.
Jibra’il, may peace be upon him!] inspired my heart’s
core that no soul will die until it fulfills its
decreed portion of this world and its appointed time
here. So be conscious of Allah and make your request
In summation, Repentance, Awareness of Allah and
Uprightness are the foundations of all that is
beneficial. The Truth is clear, and its details are
weighty and significant. The affair belongs only to
Allah. Success is in His Hands.
(partial translation of Shaykh Zarruq’s al-Nisiha by Shaykh Muhammad Affifi, the emphasis is mine.)