Al-Ubûdiyyah - Enslavement of the Heart
by Shaikh ul-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah
Obsession of the Heart 1
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 predominantly 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 Qurân and the Sunnah (authentic narrations).
Shaikh-ul-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah says:
When a mans heart becomes attached to a woman, even though she is lawful for him, his heart will be her captive. She controls him and manipulates him as she wills. In appearance he is her lord because he is her husband or her possessor. 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 the same way in which a conquering, aggressive master controls an overpowered slave who cannot escape from his master. Even worse than this is the captivity of the 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, whoevers 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 subdued, enslaved and enthralled by love for other than Allâh, then, this is indeed mere humiliation and captivity. It is the humiliating Ubûdiyyah (enslavement) that has subdued the heart.
The Ubûdiyyah of the heart and its captivity form the basis on which good reward or bad punishment will be incurred. If a Muslim is captivated by a kâfir or is enslaved by a profligate and given no rights, it will not harm him so long as he can fulfil his duties to Allâh Azzawajall. Whoever is lawfully subdued and fulfils the rights of Allâh Azzawajall 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 Îmân (conviction, faith) in his heart, the utterance will not harm him. But the one whose heart is subdued and becomes an abd (slave) for other than Allâh will be harmed by that even if he is a king. Freedom is the freedom of the heart and al-Ubûdiyyah (enslavement) is the Ubûdiyyah of the heart. Similarly, well-being is the well-being of the soul. The Messenger of Allâh (sallallahu-alaihi-wasallam) said: “Well being is not how much wealth you have; but it is the well-being of the soul.”
This, by Allâh, is the case when a lawful image has enslaved ones heart. But whoevers 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 punished and the least rewarded. For if one is obsessed by an image and his heart remains attached to it and subdued by it, he will be surrounded by so many kinds of evils and corruption that they cannot be counted but by the Lord of al-Ibâd (the servants) even if he were safe from committing the greatest Fâhishah (obscenity i.e. az-Zina - fornication). Continuous attachment of the heart without committing al-Fâhisha is more harmful for him than it is for the person who commits a sin and repents of it. Since, after true repentance the attachment and affection vanishes from his heart. These people are likened to drunk people or the insane. 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 insanity”
As for this passion, the one who is obsessed by it will never awake until the end of time. However, the insane only exhibit their madness during certain periods.
Of the greatest causes of this affliction is the hearts turning away from Allâh for when the heart senses the taste of worshipping Allâh 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 except to replace him with another lover more beloved to him than the former, or he can leave a lover fearing some harm. Verily, the heart will turn from a corrupt love to a righteous love, or from fear of imparting harm.
Allâh Taâla said concerning Yûsuf:
“Thus (did We order) that We might turn away from him evil and al-Fahshâh (illegal sexual intercourse)”
Thus, Allâh 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-Fahshâh (the blatant sin) away from him when he is sincere to Allâh. Hence, before he tastes the sweetness of al-Ubûdiyyah (Enslavement) to Allâh and sincerity for Him, he will be forced by his soul to follow its 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 (Allâh) without any effort. Allâh Taâla said:
“Verily, As-Salât (the prayer) prevents the committing of Al-Fahshâh (the obscene, blatant sin) and al-Munkar (the evil) and the Remembrance of Allâh is the greatest.”
Indeed, in As-Salât (the prayer) there is repulsion of harmful things, i.e. Al-Fahshâh (the obscene blatant sin) and Al-Munkar (the evil conduct) and there is attainment of a beloved thing, the remembrance of Allâh. The attainment of this beloved thing is greater than the repulsion of the harmful things. Verily, the remembrance of Allâh is, by itself, a worship of Allâh; and the hearts worship of Allâh is sought for itself, whereas the repulsion of evil from the heart is sought for other than itself. Instead, it is needed for something else. The 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 evil will because the latter spoils the heart as a plantation is spoiled with weeds. That is why Allâh Taâla said:
“Indeed he succeeds who sanctifies it (his own soul) and indeed he fails who corrupts it (his own soul).”
And He, Azzawajall, said:
“Indeed he shall achieve success who sanctifies himself and brings to mind the name of Allâh and performs salât (prayer).”
And He, Azzawajall, said:
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to protect their private parts from sin. That is more sanctifying for them ”
And He, Azzawajall, said:
“And had it not been for the grace of Allâh and His mercy upon you, not one of you would ever have been sanctified.”
Thus Allâh Taâla made the lowering of the gaze and the protection of the sexual organs from Az-Zina (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 evils including blatant sins, injustice, shirk (associating partners with Allâh Azzawajall) and lying.
The same is true for one who is seeking leadership and dominion on earth. His heart is a slave to those who help him with his aim although he, in appearance, 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 overlook what they have wrongly committed 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 slave.
The fact of the matter is that both of them manifest worship for each other and both of them have gone away from the actual worship of Allâh. Moreover, if their mutual help is for an unjust dominion on earth, then they are on the level of those who mutually help each other to commit al-Fâhishah (the blatant sins) or to cut off the way. Hence, each one of them, who originally was a slave and 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 which al-Abd (the servant) has a need, such as food, drink, shelter and marital life. This type should be asked for from Allah and should be sought for His pleasure. Thus, this wealth, which a person uses for his needs, is of the same level as his donkey which he rides, or his mat, on which he sits. Furthermore, it should be regarded on the same level as a water closet in which he satisfies his need without becoming subdued or dismayed by it. Allâh Taâla said:
“Irritable (discontented) when evil touches him and niggardly when good touches him.”
The other type of wealth is that which al-Abd (the servant) does not need for his necessities. He should not attach his heart to this type of wealth. For if he does attach his heart to it, he becomes subdued by it. Furthermore, he might begin relying upon other than Allâh. Then, nothing of the actual worship which is due to Allâh nor of the true reliance upon Allâh will remain with him. Instead, he will be pursuing a branch of worship of other than Allah and a branch of reliance upon other than Allâh. This person is the most deserving of the saying of the Messenger of Allâh (sallallâhu-alaihi-wasallam): “May the worshipper of ad-Dirham be wretched. May the worshipper of ad-Dinâr be wretched. May the worshipper of velvet cloth be wretched. May the worshipper of silk cloth be wretched.”
This person is indeed a slave of these objects. For if he asks Allâh for these objects and if Allâh grants him what he has requested, then he is please d. But if Allâh denies him what he has asked for, he is upset. However, the true abd (servant) of Allâh is the one who is pleased with what Allâh and his Messenger love and hates what is hated by Allâh and his Messenger and will make allegiance with the Awliyâ Allâh (those near to Allâh) and take for enemies the enemies of Allâh.
This is the person who has completed his Imân (faith, conviction) as narrated in the hadîth: “Whoever loves for Allâh, hates for Allâh, and gives for Allâh and denies for Allâh has indeed completed Imân.” and he said: “The most strong of al-Imâns (Faiths) ties is loving for the sake of Allâh and hating for the sake of Allâh.”
 That is when the person is not mindful of Allâh and not even striving to remove it (the image) from his own soul so that his Ubûdiyyah becomes purely sincerely 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-Albânî).
 That is because the continuous attachment of the heart to the image, according to the above detail, must force the person to disobey the Sharîah even in an aspect which is not directly related to the greatest Fâhisha (blatant sin) such as neglecting some of his own personal obligations or those of whom he supports. (Al-Albânî).
 Sûrah Yûsuf 12:24
 Sûrah Ankabut 29:45
 Sûrah Shams 91:10
 Sûrah Alâ 87:14-15
 Sûrah Nûr 24:30
 Sûrah Nûr 24:21
 Sûrah Maârij 70:20-21
 Reported by [Bukhârî & Ibn Mâjah] from Abû Hurairah.
 Reported by [Abû Dâwûd] and it has good isnâd (chain of narration).
 Reported by [Ahmad & at-Tabarânî] and it is Hasan.