Some may be unaware that imam Nawawi’s compilation of Qur’anic verses and ahadith is a book of tasawwuf, which can be concluded by reading his introduction and the content of the collection itself. Certain publishers have conveniently excised this intro from their publications, so let’s have a read and see for ourselves what imam Nawawi has to say, insha’Allah ta’ala.
You may ask, “Qur’an and ahadith? How is this a book of tasawwuf?” Yes indeed, that is exactly where tasawwuf is sourced from, as are all of the other ulum (sciences).
Introduction composed by the author, al-Imam an-Nawawi
All praise belongs to Allah, the One, the Almighty, the All-Powerful, the All-Forgiving, the One who shrouds the day with the night as a reminder for the intelligent (lit. “possessors of hearts”) and observant, and as an enlightenment for the knowledgeable and those who reflect. He awakened those whom He chose from His creation and made them exercise restraint (فَزَهَّدَهُم) in this worldly abode; and He engaged in His contemplation and perpetual reflection, and in learning lessons and pondering. He motivated them to persevere in His obedience and to prepare for the eternal abode; to abstain from that which may anger Him and lead to the devastating abode; and to safeguard all of this despite changing times and circumstances.
I praise Him with the most profound, pure, comprehensive and expansive of praises.
I testify that there is none worthy of worship besides Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Compassionate, the Most Gracious, and the Most Merciful; and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, His beloved and His friend, the guide to the straight path and the inviter to the upright religion. Peace and salutations of Allah be upon him and upon all the prophets, their families and all the righteous.
To proceed: Allah said, “I have created man and jinn only to worship me. I require neither sustenance from them nor do I want them to feed me. (Surah al-Dhariyat, 56-57). This is a clear pronouncement that they were created for worship, and it is therefore essential that they give due importance to what they were created for, and by exercising restraint (بالزهادة), turn away from the wealth of the world. This is because it is a transitory abode, not a perpetual one; a transporting conveyance, not a joyful destination; and a temporary path, not a permanent abode. For this reason, the attentive of its inhabitants are the worshipers, and the wisest of its people are those who exercise restraint (الزهاد).
Allah said, “the example of this worldly life is like the water that We send down from the sky, with which mingles the plants of the Earth that man and animals eat. Until the Earth reflects its splendor, becomes beautified, and its inhabitants think that they have control over it. Then Our command comes to it by night or by day, turning it into a pile of reaped harvest, as if it had not even existed before. In this way We explain the signs for those who ponder.” (surat Yunus, 24). Many verses portray the same meaning. A poet has appropriately said:
“Allah has some intelligent servants; they divorced the world and feared temptations.
They analysed it and when they realized that it is not an abode for the living;
they considered it an ocean; and took righteous deeds as ships therein.”
When its condition is as I have described, and our condition and purpose of creation is as I have outlined, it is binding upon those who are obligated to adopt the way of the righteous, and tread the path (يَسْلٌكَ مَسْلَك) of the intelligent and insightful, to prepare for what I have indicated towards and give due importance to what I have cautioned about. The most rightly-guided path he can follow (أرْشَدُ ما يَسْلُكُه من المَسَالِك) is to adopt the noble character – as proven from authentic hadith – of our prophet, the leader of the first and last of generations, and the most noble of the former and latter of people. Peace and salutations of Allah be upon him and upon the rest of the prophets.
And Allah said: “assist each other in good deeds (al-birr) and piety (taqwa),” (surat al-Maida 2), and it is authentically narrated from the Messenger that he said, “Allah continues helping the servant as long as the servant continues helping his brother” (Muslim). He also said, “one who directs towards any good shall receive a similar reward to that of the person who does it” (Muslim). And he said, “one who invites towards guidance shall receive a similar reward to that of all those who follow him, without any decrease in their rewards” (Muslim). And he said to Ali, “by Allah, if Allah guides a single person through you it will be better for you than red camels” (Bukhari, Muslim).
I, therefore, decided to compile a concise collection of authentic ahadith which would include what is required for a companion of the path (طريقَا) to the hereafter, by which he could acquire the inward and outward etiquettes, combining ahadith of encouragement and fear, and other types of etiquettes for the travelers (السالكين): from ahadith dealing with asceticism/restraint (الزهد), devotions for the soul (رياضات النفوس) (note: Ghazali has a section in his Ihya called “kitab riyadat an-nafs”), refinement of morals (akhlaq), purification and treatment of the heart (طهارات القلوب وعلاجها) (note: Muhammad Mulud has a text on this called matharat al-qulub translated by sheikh Hamza Yusuf), safeguarding the limbs and protecting them from divergence, and the various other aims of the knowers of Allah (العارفين).
I have been careful to quote only authentic and clear ahadith which are attributed to the authentic and famous hadith compilations. I begin chapters with verses from the Noble Qur’an, I explain diacritical pronunciations of words where necessary, and I carefully elucidate complex meanings. When, at the end of a hadith, I mention متفق عليه it means that it is narrated by both Bukhari and Muslim.
I hope if this book is completed it will lead one who studies it carefully towards good, and be a barrier for him against evils and destruction. I request that a brother who benefits from it in any way should supplicate for me, my parents, my teachers, all our close friends, and all Muslims. Upon Allah, al-Karim, I place my trust, and to him I rely. Allah is sufficient for me, and how excellent a guardian is He! There is no power and no might except with Allah, al-Aziz, al-Hakim.