40 RECOMMENDATIONS for Self Development


The First Recommendation: Develop a Pure Intention

The base for pleasing Allah swt in all our actions is pure intention.  We should uncover every factor that leads us to hidden kufr in worship.  Among them are:  desire for self-realization, feeling pleasure with things that do not please Allah swt, eliminating life’s complications for the sake of ease and comfort rather than to clear time for worship and contemplation.  Getting rid of blemishes and stains on the soul requires self-awareness of one’s flaws.  This situation can only be resolved by one who has entered God’s circle of patronage.

The Second Recommendation: Make a Clear Plan

A clear plan is crucial for the traveller. If the beginning and end aren’t clearly determined and the traveller is not aware of sharp edges and dangerous obstacles in the road, it may delay him if it isn’t fatal. The Devil’s vengeful mission is to delay the traveller, or worse, to force him to take a step back. The Devil gets angry if he sees someone moving successfully towards Allah, so he will try and steal all previous gains and will prevent the traveller from obtaining new ones. A person travelling towards Allah should force himself to visualize the way to spiritual completion as he looks to the distant horizon. Consequently he should pack the right kinds of luggage and food before setting out, know the rest stops on the way, carefully choose the right road-companions, be aware of the obstacles in the road that might harm him, and be on guard against the thieves that will try and steal his rewards. The Third Recommendation: Be PatientWearing the beautiful cloth of patience on the way to completion will protect the traveller from desperation or giving up. You should not be in a hurry to harvest fruits before their time – give them time to ripen! The hasty traveller will not have the endurance to continue on an often turbulent road. Patience is to faith what the head is to the body.

The Fourth Recommendation: Manage Your Journey

The Arabic term howlawah means that there is neither power nor strength but with God, but this doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t strive for advancement. The servant of God should make all necessary preparations and God Almighty will evaluate them. The power from beyond is the best friend for the person on the path. It will take the hand of the traveller, especially the most sincere ones who did not enter religion on a whim. Still, a person should not count on the power of the beyond – that help is the prerogative of God alone, and no one knows if or when it might come for him. The farmer should rely on the water he already has than on rains which may or may not come!

The Fifth Recommendation: Balance Your Faith

In any work, a person should foster inclusiveness and balance regarding all the commands of religion. Islam has its own verdicts relating to social, personal, physical, financial, scientific, practical, and other matters of life. A person should lean to one side, balancing the other, developing equilibrium. Without balance, one side will grow strong and the other side will grow weak. This results in any ugly imbalance or immoderation as has befallen many in the way of guidance.

The Sixth Recommendation: Hypocrisy in Endearment 

 Committing a sin, even one of a lower degree, will cause great obstacles in moving towards God. How can we get closer to anyone by purposefully disobeying him? Consider the wisdom of the saying, “Don’t look at how small your sin is, but rather look at the greatness of the One you are sinning against.” Also, think on the hadith which says, “Do not belittle a person; he may be one of God’s people. Do not belittle an act of worship because God’s pleasure may be in it. And do not belittle a sin because God’s anger may be in it.”

The Seventh Recommendation: Take the Qur’an as Your Companion

A person should take the Qur’an as a companion, and should enjoy spending time with this Holy Book. The Qur’an is the word of Allah swt, so how can we break our relationship with it? In it is written, “We have revealed the Book to you explaining everything clearly,” and it is also written that it has the cure for every disease that is in the chest! The person who recites from the Book will have the doors of special Qur’anic knowledge opened to him. Even if a person is not educated in the Qur’an, the Qur’an has its own beauties and elegance. Gaining benefit from recitation requires an open heart, patience, and attention.  The Eighth Recommendation: Don’t Feel
Success at a certain stage gives one a feeling of self-satisfaction and superiority over others, especially if he is living amongst spiritually lower people. But it is important to consider here that the final project in one’s life, the most worthy consideration, comes under the judgment of God. We can’t be sure of our success or failure in that project when someone else is the judge. How can we be certain of a happy ending when it is all in God’s hands? Furthermore, since we don’t know the level of others and are ignorant of what is in their hearts, on what basis can we feel superior? Perhaps they are superior to us and we don’t know it! This feeling of superiority, without intellectual or religious basis, may cause God’s blessings to be cut off. It may be the cause for gifts to be revoked, just as had befallen God’s servant Belam who was left a miserable soul.The Ninth Recommendation: PersevereWalking in the path toward success without effort and perseverance is a form of dream and imagination. It is the way of those who hold lofty wishes but have no determination to see them through. Whoever loves laziness and relaxation should know that effort and perseverance is the course of God amongst His creatures, and you will not find any change in the course of Allah. If anyone would have been exempted from this effort it would have been the Prophets (S)

.The Tenth Recommendation: Build Knowledge

Strong knowledge, especially in the fields of doctrine, law, Qur’an, traditions of the Prophet (S), and the lives of his companions, is a great blessing and help in knowing God’s will for His servants. The most intricate details of this knowledge cannot be comprehended by our minds – for those we have to attach ourselves to the world of the unseen. That cannot happen but with the help of those entrusted with God’s secrets, those purified from among the Prophet and his Ahlul-Bait (S). Whatever comes from other than them is a diversion from the truth. This sacred knowledge guarantees us against falling into bad habits – the prelude to real disaster

.The Eleventh Recommendation: Don’t Be Temperamental

A person should avoid moodiness in treatment with oneself and others. Often people may like others on the basis of temperament, “because he makes me laugh” one might say, or because their temperaments are similar. God likes to be worshipped as He likes, not as we or anyone else likes. One should be aware that if the self and its desires gain strength, they become like a god, and people will worship that false god instead of Allah. The desires may serve good in terms of the self, like the one who professionally serves the people on account of personal incentive. But this one will not dwell but in the lowest levels of closeness to the Highest Truth, because the real good is one thing and the commanding good is something else.

The Twelfth Recommendation: Ask for Directions

The stubborn and opinionated person is bound to make more mistakes than others. Asking questions of those who know and consulting with those solid in intellect and honesty will do him a lot of good. It will decrease the likelihood of falling into error, especially by means of that truth inspired from above. Consultation with those whose intellects are lit with heavenly lights means participating with them in their ideals. Do you know how many people have been saved just by asking for directions?

The Thirteenth Recommendation: About Swerving in the Road

Swerving in the road from time to time while moving towards the Highest Truth is normal. The most important thing is that one should not exceed the norm – for example, becoming sick of invoking Allah. The Qur’an mentions that God watches over His servant: “He is with you wherever you are.” Whether the servant is alone or with people he will not falter in the path because the ever-vigilant eye of Beloved God would not allow such a thing to befall His servant. Therefore the awakened devotee will not change but slightly in any situation.

The Fourteenth Recommendation: Keep Praying

Prayers play an important role in returning the balance one loses from time to time. Special attention should be paid to prayer timings. A person is bound to make many mistakes between the prayers. If these mistakes add up, they will block he light the traveller needs to illuminate the way. Prayer is talking with Almighty God, and whoever doesn’t know how to talk to God will be far from perfection. If God never neglects His servants, if He pays such careful attention to them on account of His mercy which fills all things, then why shouldn’t the servant pay attention to his Merciful Master?

The Fifteenth Recommendation: Monitor Yourself

Monitoring oneself in all words and actions is a security against going astray. Whoever does not guard himself may not be in control and cannot guarantee against grave, sinful mistakes which may anger the Almighty Lord. This monitoring should be continuous, careful, and precise, not incomplete or sporadic. The enemy is watching very closely all the time. All he needs is a split-second of negligence, a temporary state of heedlessness, to steal all that the traveller has. If the person moving towards God is robbed of his rewards, he will be in a state of disaster.

The Sixteenth Recommendation: Be Thankful to God and People

The person who guards himself is thankful to God and to people in all of his dealings. In this he is applying the discipline of his Lord and Master. Gratitude is revealed through appreciation towards people, especially family. It is their right, particularly parents and believers, to be shown kindness. On the contrary, the ones who treat others with ingratitude and lack of appreciation are not to be trusted, not even by Almighty God.

The Seventeenth Recommendation: Repent Constantly

Repentance is the recitation of the believer. He is sure there is no way he can give God all that He deserves, and so views his life as a continuous shortcoming, that his duties to God and the people are never complete. The individual should be in a condition of continuous and serious repentance.

The Eighteenth Recommendation: About Impatience

Enjoying the companionship of Beloved God, especially in its higher forms, will bring the servant into a condition of impatience with people. If you taste the best thing you have ever tasted, you might disregard what delights you had tasted before. Likewise when we find companionship with Allah, the greatest of companions, we may not feel like being with others. But this should not lead to a condition of hatred or avoidance of social duties. This condition of hatred is negative in itself the cure of which is to have long-ranging vision – to focus on God and only the Beloved God. When a person is with God there is no joy that can compare, so the person will pay attention to nothing else.

The Nineteenth Recommendation: Avoid Negligent People

Spending time with negligent people is a clear indication of spiritual sickness. This ailment makes him intimate with them and pleased with their companionship. Spending time with heedless, negligent, unaware people will transfer their contagious illness without one knowing it. Associating with such people may cause one to go astray or to incite the anger of Almighty God, and distance from God brings hard-heartedness and disorientation.

The Twentieth Recommendation: Bear Tests with Strength

It is God’s way to send some form of tragedy to test the believer, a loss of money, health, loved ones, and so forth. A person should always be in a state of contentment with God’s decree. Living without the strength to graciously accept adversities will lead to a condition of confusion about God’s supreme judgment and power. This alone is enough for a servant to lose his way altogether. A person should boost himself from a state of submission to God’s will to the state of contentment and upwards to a state of love for whatever dear God, the Loving and Wise, has fated for him. We should remember the Qur’anic statement, “Say: Nothing will afflict us save what Allah has ordained for us,” and the saying, “Whatever God fated for us is good for us.” We can be assured that everything that is written is good for us.

The Twenty-Sixth Recommendation: Visit Spiritual Filling Stations

The servant of God needs refuelling stations every year such as Hajj, Umrah, Ziyaarat, and so forth. These stops are useful because they take us out of the norm of this mundane secular life. We gain a great deal from the spiritual concentration in these places. If treated properly, they will fully yield their fruits. Visiting them in a heedless condition may deprive the traveller of spiritual lights.

The Twenty-Seventh Recommendation: Keep Secrets

Reaching new spiritual stations may inflate the traveller’s ego or bring about feelings of hypocrisy – both of which are disastrous for one’s rewards. The secret to keeping these spiritual feelings intact is secrecy. A person should not divulge these secrets except in extraordinary situations – to discover better and faster roads from ones who have already passed this way, or to encourage others on the path.

The Twenty-Eighth Recommendation: Model Behaviour

A person in this path should refer to the behaviour and conduct of the ones who have travelled this road, especially ones closer to our times. The traveller should do this when he is feeling down which may lead him to give up. Because these people have already passed through this road and may have confronted a similar situation, observing their conduct might cut down on difficulties. They also act as proofs for others who may doubt the verity of the path. Many will give up saying the environment was not in their favour. Others might say that they could never be like these immaculate souls and so the journey is impossible!

The Twenty-Ninth Recommendation: About Dunya

Many factors cause us to be busy in our daily lives, like food, clothing, work, domestic problems, and so forth. These things act as curtains that cover our eyes. They push the servant into a state of inattentiveness when he needs to concentrate on moving towards Almighty God. Many statements of the Prophet and the Imams (S) say that human beings are like guests in this mundane life and should know that they are leaving after a while. Have you ever seen a wise person become preoccupied with caring for a house he knows he will be leaving shortly?

The Thirtieth Recommendation: Talk Less

Talking too much will cause a person to make many mistakes. It is the cause of meanness, hard-heartedness, and, in the end, spiritual death. The natural way is to be silent in what is not one’s business. Talking requires proof, but shutting up doesn’t, and the servant will not be held accountable for what he doesn’t say. The standard of Judgment Day is a lot stricter that this standard!

The Thirty-First Recommendation: Plan AccuratelyThis contemporary era is characterized by planning and programming even in the smallest issues. However, when moving towards the most complicated Entity in existence we find that some expect progress with anarchy and confusion! It is as if they expect gains to fall into their laps without any effort, continuity, planning, or monitoring. Imam ^Ali (A) ordered us to organize ourselves and our affairs. He meant organization in all its dimensions and with its fullest meaning.

The Thirty-Second Recommendation: Concerning Fast Fruits

The traveller moving towards Almighty God may receive fast fruits as an encouragement to continue on the path. However the fully aware servant will realize that he shouldn’t pay close attention to them. These fast fruits are not the aim of worship. The servant’s task is to improve the bond between him ad his Lord, and anything beyond that is of no importance. He should be thankful for what he receives but not busy himself with it. He shouldn’t expect it or interfere with what he receives except to express his gratitude.

The Thirty-Third Recommendation: Close Roads on the Devil

The most experienced creature in luring people from the path is the Devil. He is well acquainted with every human weakness. The human being should uncover his own weak points, whether they are sex, anger, or other things. This way he can close roads on the Devil, the one that swore by the majesty of Almighty God that he would tempt all humans save the purified.

The Thirty-Fourth Recommendation: Observe Recommended Prayers

The daily recommended prayers, group prayers, and other suggested matters are great means to get closer to God. The traveller should do as much as possible as these extra points are highly valuable and will all be noted by Almighty God. Places such as mosques and Islamic centres abound with God’s blessings. If the traveller frequents these places perhaps he will catch a whiff of them.

The Thirty-Fifth Recommendation: Avoid Long-Range Hopes

Long-range hopes are a losing strategy. Though we hope to enjoy long lives, we may spend those days in negligence. The movement of day and night turns the pages of life very quickly, especially during middle age when a person is most active and alert. Of course in the later days of one’s life the individual matures and consolidates knowledge gained in younger days. If maturity doesn’t come and sins increase, the Devil will happily wipe his hands on his face and say, “This one will never succeed.”

The Thirty-Sixth Recommendation: Believe That You Can

It is wrong to think that high degrees of divine worship are bound for only a number of people to the exclusion of others. God Almighty promised not to lose track of any deeds however great or insignificant performed by any man or woman. A person should be active, not lazy. Religion came to improve everyone and help them reach a high degree of completion. Sometimes a person may convince himself that he can’t do it! If we look back through history we find all kinds of people, men and women, slave and free, who have attained completion.

The Thirty-Seventh Recommendation: Depend on Allah swt – totally

Thinking on daily issues will divert our attention and cause us to worry too much. In these occasions a person should depend on Allah, confide in Him and submit all issues to Him. At the same time he should avoid doing anything against God that may dissatisfy Him. He is the one that can send sustenance without end. He is the one that can open ways to a person without his knowing where they came from. Worrying about secular life will divert the mind from concentrating on the Hereafter and Judgment Day. Though many of these other issues are potent – marriage, family, social problems, and so forth – we should retain our primary focus.

The Thirty-Eighth Recommendation: Don’t Miss Opportunities

Chances often pass like clouds. Sometimes the decree for the Heavenly Banquet will come. Neglecting this blessed table that comes from Heaven may cause it to be taken back. It may never return, leaving you hungry! Unfortunately the individual might recognize this opportunity only after it has passed.

The Thirty-Ninth Recommendation: Help Others

Certainly the Almighty Creator fulfils the needs of the people. After all, we are his destitute beggars. So if the traveller attempts to provide for the needy it pleases God immensely. A person should always be alert for what he can do to take care of others. Fulfilling others’ needs expands the heart and makes it feel good.

The Fortieth Recommendation: Guide Others

Though we should not completely neglect ourselves for the sake of others, we should not be so busy with ourselves so as to neglect those around us. Many people do not know the A-B-C’s of haraam and halaal and are in need of help. The most basic form of appreciation is to attempt to guide others as much as possible, especially family. Among the best paths toward God is guiding His creatures – encourage them to love Him, to remember His blessings, and to discourage them from things that will take them further from Beloved God. 

By Br Mustafa Mawjee

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