The Fortress Of Iman
Some Muslims are of the opinion that as long as they do the bare minimum (integrals, conditions, and the essential and obligatory actions) they have done enough. For them everything else is “merely recommended” or “merely offensive,” and so they see no problem in neglecting the sunna, give no second thought in performing offensive actions, and see precaution as a prison cell. This is the same as someone eating just enough to just sustain life expecting to win the Ironman competition.
Sheikh `Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani clarifies the importance of going beyond the bare minimum in an allegory he mentions in Ghunya li Talibi Tariq al-Haqq. My own sheikh mentioned this allegory in one of our first lessons, and Hanbalis sometimes mention it in their books-but without attribution to Sheikh `Abd al-Qadir. One of these is al-Saffarini's Ghudha al-Albab, a commentary on general refined behavior. The translation appears below, with the original Arabic following.
The allegory of belief [iman] is that of a land that has five walls – al-Hajjawi said in its commentary: It is said that the allegory of belief is that of a land that has five walls. The first wall [the innermost wall] made from gold, the second from silver, the third from iron, the forth from cooked clay [aajurr], and the fifth [the outermost wall] from brick. As long as the people of the brick wall are diligent in protecting the brick, the enemy does not aspire [destroying] the second; but if they neglect this [brick wall], they will aspire for the second and then the third, until they demolish all of the walls. And like belief [iman] has five walls: certainty, then sincerity, then performing what is obligatory, then the recommended [sunan], and then refined behavior [aadab]. As long as one holds to and is diligent with having refined behavior, Satan does not scheme [to destroy] him. But if one forsakes refined behavior, Satan aspires to [destroying] the recommended works, then the obligatory, then sincerity, and then certainty.
مَطْلَبٌ : مَثَلُ الْإِيمَانِ كَبَلْدَةٍ لَهَا خَمْسُ حُصُونٍ وَقَالَ الْحَجَّاوِيُّ فِي شَرْحِهِ : يُقَالُ مَثَلُ الْإِيمَانِ كَمَثَلِ بَلْدَةٍ لَهَا خَمْسُ حُصُونٍ : , الْأَوَّلُ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ , وَالثَّانِي مِنْ فِضَّةٍ , وَالثَّالِثُ مِنْ حَدِيدٍ , وَالرَّابِعُ مِنْ آجُرٍّ , وَالْخَامِسُ مِنْ لَبِنٍ , فَمَا زَالَ أَهْلُ الْحِصْنِ مُتَعَاهِدِينَ حِصْنَ اللَّبِنِ لَا يَطْمَعُ الْعَدُوُّ فِي الثَّانِي , فَإِذَا أَهْمَلُوا ذَلِكَ طَمِعُوا فِي الْحِصْنِ الثَّانِي ثُمَّ الثَّالِثِ حَتَّى تَخْرَبَ الْحُصُونُ كُلُّهَا , فَكَذَلِكَ الْإِيمَانُ فِي خَمْسِ حُصُونٍ الْيَقِينُ , ثُمَّ الْإِخْلَاصُ , ثُمَّ أَدَاءُ الْفَرَائِضِ , ثُمَّ السُّنَنُ , ثُمَّ حِفْظُ الْآدَابِ , فَمَا دَامَ يَحْفَظُ الْآدَابَ وَيَتَعَاهَدُهَا فَالشَّيْطَانُ لَا يَطْمَعُ فِيهِ , وَإِذَا تَرَكَ الْآدَابَ طَمِعَ الشَّيْطَانُ فِي السُّنَنِ , ثُمَّ فِي الْفَرَائِضِ , ثُمَّ فِي الْإِخْلَاصِ , ثُمَّ فِي الْيَقِينِ . [غذاء الألباب 1:27]
And Allah knows best.
Wa al-salamu `alaykum,