is defined as holding oneself back from unbecoming, unnecessary things47; as
strictly refraining from what is unlawful and forbidden; or abstaining from all
doubtful things lest one should commit a forbidden act. The Islamic principle:
Abandon what you doubt and prefer what you have no doubt about,48 and the
Prophetic saying: What is lawful is evident and what is forbidden is also
evident, explain the basis of wara’.
define wara’ as the conviction of the truth of Islamic tenets, being
straightforward in one’s beliefs and acts, being steadfast in observing
Islamic commandments, and being very careful in one’s relations with God
Almighty. Others define it as not being heedless of God even for the period of
the twinkling of an eye, and others as permanently closing them-selves to all
that is not Him, as not lowering oneself before anyone except Him (for the
fulfillment of one’s needs or other reasons), and as advancing until reaching
God without getting stuck with one’s ego, carnal self and desires, and the
refrain from begging from people,
only from your Lord Who is the All-Munificent.
the pomp and luxuries of the world
will certainly go as they have come.
We can also
interpret wara’ as basing one’s life on engaging in what is necessary and
useful, as acting in consciousness of the real nature of useless, fleeting, and
transient things. This is stated in the Tradition: It is the beauty of a
man’s being a good Muslim that he abandons what is of no use to him.
of the Pandname, Farid al-Din al-Attar, explains this principle in a very
gives rise to fear of God,
without wara’ is subject to humiliation.
uprightly follows the way of wara’,
he does is for the sake of God.
who desires love and friendship of God,
wara’, he is false in his claim of love.
relates to both the inner and outer aspects of a believer’s life and conduct.
A traveler on the path of wara’ must have reached the peaks of taqwa; his or
her life must reflect a strict observance of the Shari‘a’s commands and
prohibitions; his or her actions must be for the sake of God; his or her heart
and feelings must be purged of whatever is other than God; and he or she always
must feel the company of the “Hidden Treasure.”
words, the traveler abandons those thoughts and conceptions that do not lead to
Him, keeps aloof from those scenes that do not remind one of Him, does not
listen to speeches that are not about Him, and is not occupied with that which
does not please Him. Such degree of wara’ leads one directly and quickly to
God Almighty, Who declared to Prophet Moses: Those who desire to get near to Me
have not been able to find a way better than wara’ and zuhd (asceticism).
abstinence known by humanity during the Age of Happiness50 was perfectly
observed by the blessed generations following the Companions, and became an
objective to reach for almost every believer. It was during this period that
Bishr al-Khafi’s sister asked Ahmad ibn Hanbal:
O Imam, I
usually spin (wool) on the roof of my house at night. At that time, some
officials pass by with torches in their hands, and I happen to benefit, even
unwillingly, from the light of their torches. Does this mean that I mix into my
earnings something gained through a religiously unlawful way?
The great Imam wept bitterly at this question and replied: Something
doubtful even to such a minute degree must not find a way into the house of
It was also
during this period that people shed tears for the rest of
their lives because they had cast a single glance at something
forbidden, and people who vomited a piece of unlawful food
that they had swallowed in ignorance wept for days. As related
by ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak, a great traditionist and ascetic,
a man traveled from Merv (Afghanistan) to Makka in order to
return to its owner an item that he had put in his pocket
by mistake. There were many who gave life-long service to
those to whom they thought they owed something, such as Fudayl
ibn ‘Iyad. Biographies of saints, such as Hilyat al-Awliya’
(The Necklace of Saints) by Abu Nu‘aym al-Isfahani, and al-Tabaqat
al-Kubra (The Greatest Compendium) by Imam al-Sharani,
are full of the accounts of such heroes of abstinence.