Spiritual abuse in Khidma (service), MSA WEST 2020 talk

Spiritual abuse in Khidma (service), MSA WEST 2020 talk

Listen to Danish’s talk from MSA West on January 11, 2020


 Below is a guide from the workshop I gave at MSA West on January 11, 2020 at U.C. Davis.

The title of the conference was Meeting of the Two Seas: Illumination Through Service. My topic was on spiritual abuse with a focus on abuse of khidma. Below are the notes that relate to khidma (service), where I draw heavily from Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (رحمه الله و قدس الله سره).


Spiritual abuse is the misuse of religion; whether to harm others or to harm oneself (via ostentation, etc).

Shaytan lying to Prophet Adam and Hawa (peace be upon them) was the first instance of spiritual abuse. Prophets have the highest intellectual faculty, yet he was deceived by Shaytan. The exegetes give a few explanations for this, including Prophet Adam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) did not know what a lie was, or did not think anyone would lie about something Allah prohibited. This was not a sin, because by definition prophets cannot sin.

In Surah Jinn, the jinn share that they did not think jinn nor man would lie concerning Allah.


The Prophet ﷺ said, “Exchange gifts and love will grow.” The Prophet ﷺ encouraged giving gifts, himself received gifts openly, but the scholars recognized gifts should not always be accepted because it may harm the recipient or the giver.

The great scholar Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi outlined a few conditions of giving gifts in his work Etiquettes of Social Life. Some of those conditions are:

  • Not to give a gift to someone from whom you will ask for a favor. Such a gift is closer to a bribe.
  • Gifts should only be given out of love. One should not even present a need while giving a gift because the giver will be viewed as having an ulterior motive.
  • The intention must not be to attain a benefit, as such a gift will be a bribe.

Khidma (service)

Khidma, serving others, is an integral part of our religion. In the previously mentioned book, Maulana Thanwi also lists some etiquittes of khidma, and states that khidma should meet the following conditions:

  1. It should be done out of love and not to attain any secondary benefit.
  2. There should be a relationship between the one serving and the one being served.
  3. The one serving should know how to serve.

Maulana Thanwi also mentions that one should not invoke someone of higher authority to seek a favor or receive khidma. This removes the assurance that such a favor is being done with one’s contentment, as there is likely to be outside pressure on the one fulfilling the favor.

Khidr and Musa

Maulana Thanwi also comments that although Allah told Prophet Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) to seek out Khidr, Prophet Musa did not state Allah had sent him. Nor did he invoke his own authority of prophethood to have Khidr comply with his request. Rather, he asked without any intercession as to not pressure Khidr, and humbly requested:

قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَىٰ هَلْ أَتَّبِعُكَ عَلَىٰ أَن تُعَلِّمَنِ مِمَّا عُلِّمْتَ رُشْدًا

And Musa said to him (Khidr) “May I follow you so that you may teach me some of which you have been given from guidance?”
Quran 18:66

This humble approach gave Khidr full freedom to stipulate conditions on allowing Prophet Musa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) to follow him, and to part ways when he chose to.


The Prophetic Example of leadership

وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِمَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“And lower your wing to those who follow you from amongst the believers.”
Quran 26:215

النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَىٰ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ  

The Prophet is priority to the believers before their own selves…”
Quran 33:6

  • Part of the “priority” or greater right the Prophet ﷺ has over the believers, is in the fact that he would take responsibilities for the debts Muslims would owe in their death. His high rank came with taking on more responsibility for the believers.
  • In Khandaq (Battle of the Trench) The Prophet ﷺ was digging trenches along with his companions. He did not relax as others worked for him despite being the best of creation.
  • He would walk behind his companions.
  • Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, served the Prophet ﷺ for ten years, and stated that the Prophet ﷺ never asked him why he did something he did, or why he did not do something that he did not do.
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