Book Review: Treatise For The Seekers Of Guidance

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Title: Treatise For The Seekers Of Guidance
Publisher: NID Publishers (New Islamic Directions)
Author: Imam Abu Abdullah al-Harith bin Asad al-Muhasibi
Translation, Commentary and Notes: Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Muhasibi was born in Basra in 165AH and passed away in 243AH in Baghdad, which places him from amongst the early generations of Islam to follow Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). His major intellectual contribution was that of moral psychology, which is what we understand to day to be moral conduct and outlook. His methodology is based on the Quran, the Prophetic traditions, the saying of the scholars that followed him and his personal insights into the states of the human soul and psyche. He calls to spiritual reformation during a time which was before the use of labels and terminology. He calls his reader to take account of him or herself, to be active in reflecting on our states and deeds, and to discover ways to bring our states and deeds in accordance to the commands of our Lord. Each section is headed up by a statement of Imam al-Muhasibi, followed by a commentary from Imam Zaid Shakir pertaining to our conditions and challenges of today.

I will share two small passages from the book. This portion is a commentary on Imam al-Muhasibi’s statement describing a believer: He watches over himself for the sake of God. Imam Zaid adopts a commentary from Imam Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi in his commentary on the verse of the Quran: Surely, God ever watches over you (4:1). This can be found in the book on pages 113-115:

You should know that awareness of God’s observation will not be properly attained until it is preceded by Musharata, Murabata, and then followed up with Muhasaba and Mu’aqada. As for Musharata, it is the servant making it conditional for himself to be consistently obedient and to avoid all sins. As for Murabata, it is his entering into a covenant with his Lord to do that. After these two, he begins to be aware of God’s observation from the beginning to the end of his affair. After this he engages in Muhasaba by taking himself to account concerning his fidelity in implementing the conditions and the covenant he has placed over himself.

If he finds that he has been faithful in fulfilling that which he has convened with God, he praises Him (God). If he finds that he has failed to fulfill the condition(s), and has breached the covenant, he engages in Mu’aqaba by rebuking himself so strongly that it discourages him from ever breaching the covenant again. He then repeats this process over and over until he meets God, Most High.

On page 191, Imam Zaid writes, referring to the path to God, Most High:


The purpose of this book is to cultivate in people the spiritual qualities necessary to walk on this path, for indeed, it is a path that requires a large degree of spiritual maturity. God mentions that this station: Will only be attained by those possessing patience, it will only be attained by the possessors of a bounteous share. (41:35) The bounteous share referred to here is of spiritual maturity and fortitude.

I highly recommend this book for all those interested in Islamic spiritually in the manner that was exemplified by the scholars of the earliest time. Imam al-Muhasibi takes the reader on a journey into ones soul and state of mind, and encourages the reader to better his or herself in preparation for the ultimate meeting with God, Most High. Imam Zaid has also produced a lecture series on the book, which can be purchased here. Lastly, below is a short video in which Imam Zaid introduces this work in his own words:

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