“The Forty Grand”
If one plants an orchard on a chemical dump without first digging it out and replacing it with good soil, it will produce poisonous fruit. Similarly, the spiritual traveller who harbors vile character in his heart cannot go very far in the path until he addresses it. This lesson works on two key fundamentals of akhlaq or “good character”: establishing the prayer and holding one’s temper. It consists in forty days in a row of doing these two things.
During this lesson (and each of the subsequent muraqaba lessons), if one delays any of the five obligatory prayers (including witr, if one is Hanafi) past its valid time by, for example, sleeping through the dawn prayer until sunrise—unless there is a valid excuse such as one’s monthly period or joining two prayers for travel or rain—it immediately vitiates the forty days and one must return to begin them again from day one, and then finish from there. Its ongoing relation to subsequent lessons is explained in the last section of this lesson.