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About The Virtues Of Trials, Hunger and Fasting.

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As-Salaam alaikum, 

In al-Qushayri'a Risala, we find a saying of Hatim al-As amma, a disciple of the celebrated Shaqiq al-Balkhi, which records what may be one of the earliest descriptions of the necessary requirements of the spiritual life:-


 "Whoever desires to follow our way," declared Hatim, "must assume 4 qualities of death : white death, which is hunger, black death, which is putting up with the harms of others, red death, which is sincere activity in opposing the lower soul, and green death, which is wearing a garment whose patches have been stitched one over the other. "

The strongly ascetic impulse behind these words of Sheikh Hatim was, in his particular case, likely due to the influence of his teacher Shaqiq, who was himself a disciple of Ibrahim ibn Adha, renowned for having renounced an entire Kingdom to live in prayer and poverty (faqr). 

As observed by Sheikh Ibn Arabi in his 'Futuhat al - Makkiyyah', these 4 qualities or varients of death are indispensable in the Sufi tradition alluded to in the well-known hadith : "Die before you die", and are helpful to the spiritual itinerant on the journey to Allah Ta'ala.

Among other benefits, for example, white death (hunger) - - by fasting, you abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset.. and thereby imbibe the value or virtue of patience, and the Prophet, Sallallahu alaihi Wasallam, said : "Patience is half of faith", and "Half of patience lies in the fast".

As for "green death" of wearing parched clothing - this teaches.. is a mark of renunciation. Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, we are informed, wore a robe of 13 patches. 

And the "black death" of patiently enduring the offences and injuries of others without seeking retaliation or retribution is commendable virtue. And the "red death" of opposing the soul's desires and baser inclinations takes one to mujahada or jihad-nafs - greater jihad leading to the slaying of unruly passions. 

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