بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Striving against our souls
Constantly we are being afflicted with trials and tribulations and they are different depending on the person. It may be striving to wake up for fajr or being courageous in the face of oppression. However what we all experience and share in common when faced with such maladies is the desire to give into our nafs (powers of anger and lust in a human being). At times our lusts and desires can take the better of us, constricting our vision so that all we see are the alluring benefits of the material world whilst disregarding any negative consequences. However we all need reminding, we all need to take a second and look at the bigger picture; will I really be happy if I do what I want?
After a recent trip to Italy I had the opportunity to visit Pompeii and saw bodies covered in lava at their time of death, reminding me of the sura:
Say (O Muhammad, to the disbelievers): Travel in the land, and see the nature of the consequence for those who were before you! Most of them were idolaters. (Surat Ar-Rum, verse 42) [Pickthall Translation]
When I walked through the town, all I could see was a plethora of erotic statues, paintings and altars dedicated to their deities; a town given into their own desires, yet this town perished in mere seconds. This was a wake up call, if we succumb to our nafs, what will be our final state? Although as humans we can comprehend little, a central truth that we all must testify to is; nothing is certain but death.
And the question remains; how are we spending our precious moments? Is it trying to get closer to Allah or have we given into our own desires that the akhira (afterlife) has become a mere after thought?
In this dunya things that are worth having don’t come cheap and the exact allusion can be made with paradise. If we truly want jannah (paradise), it comes at a price and that price is struggling against our own selves for the sake of Allah. For Allah says:
“Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the Cause of Allah. Those! They are the truthful” [al-Hujuraat 49:15]
And about the person who controlled the passion of his soul/self God says:
“But as for he who feared the standing before his Lord and restrained the soul from [his] desire, then indeed, Paradise will be his refuge.” (79:40-41).
Furthermore the prophet said that paradise is shrouded with difficulties:
Hahrat Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that Rasual’ullah (saw) said: when Allah completed the creation of paradise and hell, Allah instructed Jibrail to visit paradise and see all the wonderful rewards and blessings therein prepared and preserved for the eventual dwellers of paradise. Jibrail did exactly as he was commanded by Allah and carefully examined the marvellous wonders and amazing marvels of paradise (and was thoroughly impressed by it all). He returned and reported to Allah that,’ By Allah! Whoever hears and learns about the blessings and rewards of paradise will certainly want to be admitted into it!’ Allah then commanded (his angels) to shroud and to conceal paradise with difficulties, and to surround it with sorrow and pain, with much hardship and suffering, and with it many trials and tribulations. Allah then instructed Jibrail to visit paradise again and to report back (to Allah) how he found paradise this time round. Jibrail went on a tour of inspection of paradise and found it covered with pain and suffering and surrounded with hardships, pain and sorrow. He reported to Allah: ‘I declare an oath on your honour! I fear that (under the circumstance) no one will be able to enter paradise!”
“Allah then commanded Jibrail to visit hell and to see the punishment and torture destined for its dwellers, and to see how the one part of hell was designed to weigh heavily on the other side (as if to crush it). Jibrail toured and inspected hell thoroughly and reported to Allah: ‘I declare an oath in your honour, Oh Allah, no one will ever want to enter hell after learning and hearing about its condition.’ Allah then decreed that hell be covered with passions and desires, and that hell be surrounded with charms, temptations and lusts. When this was done by the command of Allah, Jibrail was ordered to tour hell again as it was now constituted. Jibrail carried out the command of Allah, and reported back to Allah: ‘On your honour, Oh Allah! No single person will now be saved from entering hell. All will now be easily admitted into hell’” (Tirmidhi)
Though jannah may be shrouded with difficulties, all the tests that come with it are good for a believer since any hardship cleanses away sins and we are rewarded abundantly inshAllah for being patient and we should find comfort in knowing that we can always turn to Allah for help.
Although jannah may seem hard to attain, through the mercy of Allah it is possible and we should not despair if we slip and fall into sin as we must all remember that Allah is the most merciful and can forgive all sins, and indeed despair is a tool of shaytan. For Allah says:
“O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah. For Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Az-Zumr, 39:53]
When a believer commits a sin and seeks Tawbah, Allah (SWT) becomes so happy and says: “My servant committed a sin and then he came to realize that he has a Lord who holds the sinner responsible and accountable, and also that He has a Lord who forgives the sins if asked for forgiveness: So let him be forgiven.”
However we must constantly remind ourselves of the danger of giving into our own lusts and Allah reminds us:
“Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire?” (25:43) And “He followed his own desire. So his example is like that of a dog: if you chase him he pants, or if you leave him, he [still] pants.” (7:176)
In contrast to the above verse we should take the example of the wife of Firaun (pharaoh) and strive to be like her. Even now her position would be envied. She was the queen of Egypt, her husband ruled over the land and she possessed the finest things in this dunya. However, her iman (faith) was so strong that her ultimate goal was closeness with Allah even if that meant sacrificing her opulent lifestyle.
There are many ways in which we need to struggle against our nafs and one of the ways our nafs can misguide are the ‘small’ things –trying to get back at each other, the backbiting and the quarrelling etc. For example if someone causes you some grief, think first before acting as Islam teaches we should always give the benefit of the doubt rather than giving into the desire to punish.
“Blessed is the man who speaks good and is triumphant; or keeps silent in the face of evil and is secure” Tabrasi, Mashkat al-Anwar, p. 175, 2nd Edition
Furthermore, when we only speak words of kindness Allah says our own enemies can become our friends:
“And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! he between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend.” (41:34)
If we were to act against this, then hatred breeds and festers in our souls, both harming our dunya and akhira. Good character not only attracts others to the deen but can be a stepping stone into jannah inshAllah.
Our battle with our nafs is a constant one:
Hasan al-Basrî said: “Two thoughts roam over the soul, one from God, one from the enemy. God shows mercy on a servant who settles at the thought that comes from Him. He embraces the thought that comes from God, while he fights against the one from his enemy. To illustrate the heart’s mutual attraction between these two powers the Prophet (saw) said: “The heart of a believer lies between two fingers of the Merciful” [Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhî, Ibn Mâjah]… The fingers stand for upheaval and hesitation in the heart… If man follows the dictates of anger and lust, the dominion of shaytân appears in him through idle desires (hawâ) and his heart becomes the nesting-place and container of shaytân, who feeds on hawâ. If he does battle with his desires and does not let them dominate his nafs, imitating in this the character of the angels, at that time his heart becomes the resting-place of angels and they alight upon it.
Though life can be overwhelming at times, lets take it as a blessing to get closer to Allah, lets try and be the best of people with the desire to control our nafs for the pleasure of Allah, with the restraint to think and speak only words of goodness and bear any calamity with patience, and to be resurrected with the righteous inshAllah.
All good is from Allah and any mistakes are from myself