The 4 Aspects of Islamic Mindfulness

“Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research is a research institute which aims to instil conviction and inspire contribution based on mainstream Islamic texts.” Mindfulness is a term we hear a lot today. It is generally understood to be a form of meditation and self-awareness, vaguely associated with Buddhist or Zen practices. From the Islamic context, whilst ‘mindfulness’ as it’s generally understood today has many benefits, its major shortcoming – and likely the reason for its widespread popularity – is the absence of a requirement for God-consciousness or theological understanding for any practitioner. Instead, the Islamic tradition espouses the practice of muraqabah, the vigilant awareness of Allah and one’s relationship with Him. Indeed, the traditional understanding of this concept not only includes mindfulness as we understand it today, but encompasses it within an orthodox understanding of Allah and the responsibilities He has given us. According to Sheikh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, muraqabah involves an active, conscious awareness of 4 aspects:

Knowledge of Allah

Our knowledge of Allah [God] comes only from the understanding which He Himself gave us, through His divine scriptures and the Prophets and Messengers that He sent to teach us. According to ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, by reflecting on the 99 Names of Allah, particularly on the names the Watcher (Al-Raqib), the Guardian (Al-Hafith), the Knowing (Al-‘Alim), the Hearing (Al-Sami’), the Seeing (Al-Basir), one can acquire muraqabah.

Knowledge of the enemy of Allah, Iblis [Satan]

The two sources of evil in our life are primarily the demonic whisperings of Satan, and the suggestions and weaknesses of our own souls [nafs]. By reflecting on the reality of Satan, his whisperings, and his weakness and reliance on Allah, we are able to protect ourselves from this fundamental danger in our path to Allah ﷻ.

Knowledge of your own soul, and it’s capacity to suggest evil

An understanding of our own self is the sole focus of what we today call “mindfulness”. The Islamic tradition becomes very beneficial in this regard, as the insights it holds for the reality of our souls are numerous. By reflecting on the major diseases of the heart, as well as the beautifying qualities and characteristics we should replace them with, we can consistently refine and elevate our soul.

Knowledge of deeds to be done for the sake of Allah

This aspect is necessary for the practice of muraqabah to be consistent with the Islamic tradition, and is essential in fulfilling the goal of refinement and nearness to Allah. By learning and reflecting upon Islamic law and jurisprudence, as well as the various actions that good character calls for, we can give true meaning to our acts of worship for Allah. Many spiritual practices within an orthodox understanding of Islam involve a consistent practice of ‘meditation’ upon these 4 aspects. Ibn al-Qayyim described,
muraqabah as the reality of the pure heart [al-qalb al-salim]…by which no one is saved but by coming to Allah with it”.
A true practice of muraqabah requires consistency and discipline, and involves a comprehensive awareness of the basics of Islamic creed, law, ethics, and of one’s own subtle psychological make-up. Read more in How to be a Mindful Muslim: An Exercise in Islamic Meditation by Justin Parrott