My journey to writing ‘A Handbook of Spiritual Medicine’ began almost 20 years ago at university, when I stumbled across ‘Purification of the Heart’ by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson. It focused on identifying and addressing common emotions such as anger, boasting, envy, mockery and vanity. Whenever and wherever I opened this book, it shook my conscience, gripping me with a new cause: a profound directive to seek a solution to the illnesses of my own heart.
Roughly around the same time, towards the end of my MBA studies, I lived with a medic whose particular quirk was to reference the ‘Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine’ with zeal. Like some sort of charm, he would lift this cheese-and-onion coloured textbook from his pocket on a daily basis to pore over notes which ran the whole gamut of the known medical and surgical world.
It is the memory of the practicality of this small book coupled with my long-term preoccupation with the concept of ‘self-purification’ which brings me to this point.
If a handbook could illustrate the maladies of the human spiritual condition, and offer up the remedies too, then I too could use something like that to direct my own self to a purer or better path. Aided by distant memories of the Seven Deadly Sins from my younger school days at Catholic school, I could appreciate the categorisations that ran through Hamza Yusuf’s work and utilise them to provide a definitive structure, a plan for my own guidance. I could see a flickering light on the shore.
Writing whilst managing my ‘day job’
I am married with four children, and an IT Management Consultant by profession. My work takes me around the UK. The ideas for the book were borne almost 20 years ago, yet it was only 3 years ago when I began my journey in earnest, stealing time during evenings when working away from home, and weekends in and around work and family commitments.
Recent events however have allowed me to dedicate more time, and after a long and challenging self-publishing journey, with the help of some very special people (the editing team), including my dear wife and children, and with the duas of my dear mother and the inspiration of my late father, I managed to complete the book during the blessed month of Ramadan, alhamdullilah.
Tips for aspiring writers
I don’t profess to be anything more than someone with a passion for this subject and a desire for others to benefit in sha Allah. My journey has however taught me a number of key lessons.
- Purify and check your intention along the way: my wife has helped me ensure I stay true to my original intention, which is to benefit myself as well as others in sha Allah, and if this means making sacrifices / hard choices along the way, then so be it.
- Get up every time you get knocked back: there is good in everything so don’t let ‘bad’ news knock you down. I was knocked back by a publisher in my early days, however the journey of self-publishing has meant that I have had to work closely alongside very blessed people, who profoundly enriched me.
- Stick to what you know best: you’ll need a team of good people working alongside you doing what they do best (editing, designing, referencing, and consultation/guidance as and when).
- Don’t hold back on quality: I’ve tried not to because I want to reach or attract folks that perhaps wouldn’t normally pick up a book or even contemplate reading this kind of material.
- Include your own life experiences: real experiences are relatable, authentic and often more compelling.
- You CAN carve time out of your crazy schedule: if you’re passionate enough, and if you structure your time and have the support of your friends and family.
- Think about WHAT as well as HOW the market will receive your book: it’s important you consider current trends and engage those who simply know better than you; my 18-year-old daughter for instance shaped the ‘social media’ content and context within the handbook and is now managing our social media marketing!
- Market your book as effectively as you can only because you truly want to benefit others.
- Take the advice and guidance from respected elders, scholars and ‘subject matter experts’: it’s always sensible to keep an open mind and absorb the wisdom of others.
- Be consistent: every moment spent writing was in some way contributing to the betterment of myself and hopefully others, this understanding fuelled my passion to continue and allowed me to seal an hour at every opportunity.
An excerpt from the book
‘This spiritual guide to the self is a handbook of tazkiyah or ‘self-purification’. Not only does it illustrate the maladies of the human spiritual condition, it recognises the struggles and insecurities we all succumb to from time to time, and offers up the remedies too.
The antidotes to our ailments are drawn from Qur’ānic verses and authentic ahādīth (Prophetic sayings), inspiring mindfulness of the Almighty Cherisher (SWT) and His Beloved Prophet (SAW). This guidebook, drawing on the 11th and 12th Century works of the ‘Proof of Islam’ and wondrous sage, Imām Abū Hāmid Al-Ghazālī (RA), can be applied to our busy lives in the modern, hi-tech era, and will prove accessible to people of all ages, all denominations: believers and non-believers alike.’
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Jamal Parekh (Ibn Daud)
Author | ‘A Handbook of Spiritual Medicine’