Ask A Question About Islam And Muslims
What are some specific things we can do to remove the love of the Dunya from our hearts and increase our spirituality besides avoiding Haram?
Thank you for your question. The heart is a battleground for two types of love. Love of God and love of the world. In order to remove the love of the world from the heart, the heart has to be filled with the love of God and this is the main purpose of self-purification and refinement and is the crux of spirituality in Islam. In one narration Imam al-Sadiq (as) says: "Is religion other than love."
It is achieved through battling the ego, with knowledge, faith and action. Through knowing the self and not succumbing to the desires of the lower self. By remaining patient in trials and tribulations and increasing one's hope and closeness to God. By realizing all of the ideals of Islam, its ethics and its practices.
May you always be successful
Is it permissible in Islam to live like a poor person in order to increase spirituality and stay away from materialistic things?
It is permissible.
However, it should not negatively affect people who are financially dependent on you (that is, you should not voluntarily impose poverty on financial dependents such as a wife or children), and you also should not put yourself in a situation where you are financially dependent on people (for instance, taking state benefits by choice).
Also you should not make this into a religious requirement or ideal; rather just say to others and to yourself that it is your preference.
Basically you can live according to any lifestyle you want, as long as it does not involve anything harmful or forbidden, and as long as you don't require it for others or become arrogant about it.
People have different personal and spiritual needs and perhaps some people do better spiritually with a simple lifestyle. However, it is good to remember that the Prophet (S) was both rich and poor, and his example was of being actively involved in society - including financial aspects - while maintaining spirituality.
Also, there is an advantage to having wealth, if you are able to use it to assist the less fortunate or use it in the performance of religious acts (such as performing the hajj). For instance, Imam Hasan (A) would not have been known for his generosity if he did not have any wealth to give.
Overall, I think it is fair to say that, as an ummah, the Muslim world today is in greater need of overcoming mass poverty, than encouraging voluntary poverty. (Of course this is a complicated issue since one of the main problems in the Muslim world is the unequal distribution and misuse of wealth, not actual lack of wealth, and not all Muslim areas are poor, but it cannot be denied that poverty is a debilitating problem for too many Muslims. This is a social problem not an individual problem, but just putting it out there.)
That being said, the Prophetic teachings discourage an overfocus on or overindulgence in wealth; rather, they encourage people to follow the path of moderation.
In any case, none of us is the Prophet (S), so we have to make the best decisions for our own lives in the matters which are left to our own choice.
If our journey towards Allah has to be done alone, then why do we as humans crave companionship, be it in terms of a friend, spouse or spiritual teacher?
Thank you for your question. While everyone is responsible for their own actions, the journey towards Allah does not have to be alone. Most mystics have recourse to their teachers and fellow wayfarers on the path as well as their families and friends. The inner journey occurs within the individual, but that does not exclude companionship along the way. Indeed these relationships aid the spiritual journey.
May you always be successful.
What are some of the books which talk in detail about the esoteric practices (apart from the normal 5 daily prayers) of Shia Islam which would accelerate a person's spirituality and give him extra perceptive attributes or spiritual powers?
Excellent answer from Shaykh Zoheir Esmail, I also wanted to add that there is some indication in narrations that having faith and wilayah in the Imams (A) does develop this capacity to some degree. For instance, it is related, from Imam al-Sadiq (A), ‘Our followers (shi'a) have have four eyes: two eyes in the head and two eyes in the heart. Actually, all people have these, but Allah opened your sight.'
If one goes through what is found in the books of narrations, there are some pointers here and there on this topic. For instance, you may be familiar with the saying attributed to Imam 'Ali (A) saying 'lower your eyes and you will see wonders'. While this is often discussed in the context of having a chaste gaze in society, it can be taken on a deeper level to mean avoiding distracting one's self with the glitter of the life of this world to be able to understand beyond it.
It is my view (and by that, I mean it is my personal view and may or may not be the view of others) that both the formally prescribed practices of Twelver Shi'ism (such as prescribed du'as or a'mal as well as ziyarat to the holy sites) as well as the traditional practices (especially relating to majalis and azadari) do both facilitate a stronger sense of spiritual vision and understanding if one takes them seriously. After all, it is really not uncommon for Shi'is to experience, or at least say they experience, dreams, visions, miracles, etc, of Ahl al-Bayt when participating in these events.
One can always pray for what one seeks, whatever it happens to be in life, including spiritual vision. One could recite one's own prayers in one's own words, or there are some snippets of du'as from Ahl al-Bayt (A) that could be considered appropriate such as from Munajat Sha'baniyyah.
Beyond that, many things in life are not really learned by books. One can get inspiration or some tips from books, but many arts really are passed on through a person to person basis. For instance, few people solely learn cooking or swimming from books, even though one can get tips and advice from cooking and swimming magazines. In the Islamic tradition, historically, there has been a strong emphasis on the person to person passing on of spiritual knowledge, and I think there is a virtue to this tradition. (Of course one should be cautious whom one seeks spiritual knowledge from and keep one's inner and outer eyes open, but it doesn't diminish the value of being able to take knowledge from another human.) It seems also that spiritual perception operates differently from person to person (for instance, for some people, it might be more direct whereas others more indirect, such as via intuition or dreams) and there isn't a one size fits all answer to be taken only from books, although books may have some things to offer.
At the same time, there are some basic things one can do regardless of what faith tradition one adheres to (if any) that aren't limited to Shi'ism, such as anything that develops one's sense of focus or reduction of unnecessary distractions in life, that are likely helpful along these lines. Also - as the narration says - most people have spiritual perception, especially people who already have an inclination towards religion and spirituality, and it doesn't hurt simply to pay attention to what is already there - especially in this busy day and age and age of secularism/materialism, a lot of people tend to just shut this sort of thing out.
Best wishes on your spiritual journey!