Question: Can I achieve higher degrees of spiritual purification if I work in a worldly sector, such as engineering? Must I abandon my secular studies and embrace religious studies to reach my spiritual aspirations?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
Purification or Tazkiya is a process of spiritual refinement. It is a process of self-knowledge and rectification. It entails essentially two factors.
The first is the removal of spiritual ailments also known as the blameworthy characteristics of the heart. The second is the adoption of the heart’s praiseworthy characteristics.
Being that many of the heart’s praiseworthy and blameworthy characteristics are manifest in our social dealings and cannot be detected without them, your working in a worldly sector should not be seen as an impediment but rather as an opportunity.
In such a sector, you will be able to diagnose things like arrogance, hatred, self-conceit, etc., and you will have an avenue to practice adopting qualities such as patience, generosity, humility, etc.
Times Of Seclusion
No matter how you earn your livelihood or the circumstances that you are in, it is essential and greatly facilitative to have moments of seclusion. One does not need large quantities of time rather quality time. In such times of seclusion one should aim to do any of the following worships:
(1) Reflection: ponder over the greatness of Allah, His blessings upon you, your deficiencies in showing gratitude for those blessings, the shortness of this life, etc…
(2) Remembrance: with tongue and heart, say the various remembrances, such as ‘subhanAllah, alhamdulillah, la ilaha illa Allah, Allahu Akbar, prayers on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and seeking forgiveness – as an example
(3) Supplication: from the bottom of your heart, with desperation and brokenness, express to Allah Most High your needs, your aspirations, your troubles and problems, your obstacles, your shortcoming, etc., and seek help from Allah Most High while trusting in His ability to come to your aid.
Having these times will recharge you to re-engage the worldly with purpose and a present heart.
You do not have to abandon your secular studies entirely to pursue religious knowledge. However, you should designate sufficient time throughout the week to increase your understanding of religion.
If you are not versed in your personally obligatory knowledge, then it is obligatory that you take the means to seek that knowledge. However, if you do have a rudimentary foundation of Islamic knowledge you should continue to deepen and widen your understanding.
If you do possess the means and there is no undue difficulty on you or those you are responsible for, there is great merit and virtue in seeking Islamic knowledge full-time. This is something you should consult your local Imam, your parents, and the elders of your community about. Likewise, you should perform the prayer of seeking guidance before resolving on such a thing.
See the following resources for more advice and insights:
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani