In Tasawwuf and sulook what is meant by islah or tazkiya?
It is the cleansing of blame worthy moral characteristics (razail akhlaq) of nafs. That is ridding one’s self from arrogance, anger, show-off, envy, self-admiration, love of money and status, lustful desires, etc.
We focus on betterment of our outwards appearance and worship without paying attention to the removal of above mentioned blame worthy morals.
This is a big mistake!
The biggest obstacle in our path to achieving the pleasure of Allah is our nafs with all its blame worthy characteristics.
It is because of this lapse we see that outwardly pious-appearing people indulge in impermissible activities whenever they are tempted by a worldly gain or are fearful of worldly loss.
May Allah give us the correct understanding of islah and facilitate it for us effectively. Ameen!
Once we acknowledge this and recognize our blame worthy moral characteristics the next step is to remove them. This is by firm determination, self-control and constant vigilance.
Remembrance of Allah (dhikr) facilitates it. Advice from Shaykh facilitates it further. But both of these are like catalysts. Without the key ingredient of determination and use of self-control they do not work alone.
Sayyidi wa sandai Mufti Mohammed Taqi Usmani (Allah preserve & protect him) repeatedly instructs us that there is no formula of remembrance or litany or amulet to bring about islah. One has to use his determination and self control.
May Allah facilitate this for us all. Ameen!