The Evils Of The Nafs And Opposition To It

Paying attention to your spiritual ailments is better than turning your gaze in the direction of attaining things which are out of your sight.

O Mureed! You are eager to discover hidden entities. You desire to know of the Divine Mysteries, secrets and subtleties. You consider these entities to be the Maqsood (Goal) or the introductory stage of the Maqsood. Remember that to incline the heart in this direction and to pursue these hidden entities are not for your welfare. In fact, this attitude is harmful for you. It is better for you to view your spiritual defects such as riya, hasad, takabbur, etc., and to concern yourself with their elimination.

If in the course of your spiritual journey some mystery is revealed to you, do not attach significance to it. Keep in mind that your purpose is the purification of your nafs from evil attributes.

Expel every human quality which stands in opposition to your worship (and obedience of Allah) so that you become one who answers the Call of Allah and gain His Proximity.

There are two kinds of human attributes – vice and virtue. The virtuous attributes (Ausaaf-e-Mahmoodah) are obedience, Imaan, humility, contentment, patience, etc. The evil attributes (Ausaaf-e-Mazmoomah) are classified into two categories. The first class is related to the physical limbs, e.g. back-biting, injustice, theft, etc. The second class of evil attributes is related to the heart, e.g. pride, vanity, jealously, etc.

Ausaaf-e-Mazmoomah are in conflict with worship and obedience. It is imperative to strive to eliminate these evil attributes. The heart will become adorned with the Ausaaf-e-Mahmoodah after it has been purified from the Ausaaf-e-Mazmoomah. Only then will man accept the baatini (inner) Call of Allah Ta’ala.

Allah Ta’ala constantly calls you to His obedience. The Qur’aan says:

“And Allah calls (you) to the Abode of Peace (Jannat).”

You should be one who truthfully acknowledges this Divine Call. You will then attain Divine Proximity. Without purification of the nafs from the evil qualities, you will not be able to truthfully answer His Call. In consequence, you will be deprived of Divine Proximity. A man who is soiled with impurities is unfit for presentation in the Royal Court.

The root of every sin, ghaflat (inertia); bestial desire is pleasure with one’s nafs and the seed of every obedience; alertness and purity are displeasure with one’s nafs.

When a man is pleased with his condition, then he is in fact pleased with his nafs, whether his state be good or bad. This pleasure with the nafs is the root of every evil, negligence and lowly nafsaani desire.

When a man in pleased with his nafs, its defects and evils will be concealed from his gaze. His own evil will also appear pleasing. His heart will feel safe and satisfied with his nafs. He will then become forgetful of Allah Ta’ala. In the wake of ghaflat (forgetfulness, neglect, inertia), wasaawis (stray satanic thoughts) and lustful desires will strike him with force. Sin will then be the result.

Being displeased with the state of one’s nafs is the root of obedience, alertness and purity. When man is displeased with his nafs, he will always be alert. He will understand every trick and desire of this enemy. He will examine intelligently every demand of the nafs on the standard of the Shariah. Any demand he finds in conflict with the Shariah will be shunned.

In the initial stage, the struggle against the nafs is difficult. Sometimes the nafs will emerge victorious and sometimes it will be defeated. However, if the struggle (Mujaahadah) is maintained, the power if the nafs will gradually be neutralised and it will become content with the Shariah. It will then refrain from rebellion. Purity and obedience will become its nature. Sin and inertia will be banished.

By Allah! Your companionship with a jaahil (ignoramus) who is displeased with his nafs is better than association with an Aalim who is pleased with his nafs. Of what benefit is his knowledge to him? And, what harm is the ignorance of an ignoramus who is dissatisfied with his nafs?

Since the benefit of an a lim’s companionship and the harm of a jaahil’s company are acknowledged facts, the Shaikh (rahmatullah alayh) takes an oath and says that the companionship of such a man who although ignorant of book (external) knowledge, is displeased with his nafs, is superior to the companionship of an a lim who is satisfied with his nafs. The ignorant man (mentioned in this context) although lacking in academic knowledge, understands with conviction that his nafs is the embodiment of evil and defect. He does not commit the error of believing in having any excellences. Such a man is kaamil (spiritually perfect). He is not an ignoramus.

On the other hand if a man is contented with his nafs, then despite his qualifications in academic knowledge, his association will prove harmful. In him is the root of every evil, hence even if his zaahiri (academic) knowledge induces him to obey the Shariat, his moral state is dangerous. One cannot repose confidence in him. His spiritual disease will most certainly exercise its influence at some time. His companionship will harm whoever is in his association because the influence of companionship is an acknowledged fact. Such a person will be enamoured by his academic research and be pleased with himself. This is precisely ghaflat.

This disease (being satisfied with one’s nafs) is extremely subtle. The one in whom it lurks is himself unable to detect it. The man who is always displeased with the state of his nafs regardless of how beautiful the condition of the nafs may appear, will not be harmed by ignorance. On the other hand, an a lim who is contented with his nafs and endeavours to acquire the pleasure of the people for his acts, his knowledge is of no benefit.

How is it possible for supernatural acts to emanate from you when you have not yet abandoned nafsaani habits.

Miraculous demonstrations or supernatural acts displayed by a man who is obedient to the Shariah and follows the Shariah meticulously, are called Karaamaat. If such acts are demonstrated by irreligious persons, they will be termed Istidraaj (which are satanic manifestations).

Many Saalikeen who suffer from the ailment of the desire for fame, hanker after Karaamaat. The Shaikh (rahmatullah alayh), therefore, says when you, the mureed have not eliminated your evil attributes, how can you expect to display miracles? Karaamat is Divine Testimony for the Wilaayat (Sainthood) of a person. When the mureed is bogged down in lowly attributes, how can he expect Divine Testimony? He lacks in Wilaayat.

When the pleasure of lustful desires becomes entrenched in the heart, it becomes an incurable disease.

Some physical ailments deteriorate to the degree of incurability and the patient is rendered terminally ill. The case of spiritual ailments is similar.

Everyone is plagued with nafsaani desires and the desires for worldly pleasure. But when the pleasure of some lowly desire becomes ingrained in the heart, the disease becomes incurable. Imaan, Taa-at and Istighfaar–although these are remedies for spiritual ailments, are efficacious as long as the disease has not become ingrained in the heart. After entrenchment in the heart, only the Fadhl of Allah Ta’ala can eliminate it.

It is therefore, essential that the Saalik ensures from the very beginning that spiritual ailments do not become ingrained in the heart.

There is no fear of the paths of worship becoming obscure and confusing for you. But there is the danger of nafsaani love dominating you.

The paths of worship are the ways which are Allah’s commands for the bandah at all times, e.g. For a ni’mat (bounty), shukr (gratitude) in incumbent; for a calamity, sabr (patience) is essential; for disobedience, repentance and regret are necessary. The Shaikh (rahmatullah alayh) says, that there is not much fear of these ways becoming obscure and confusing for you because the Qur’aan, Hadith and the Books of Fiqh have explicitly explained these acts. The Ulama have simplified this with their expositions. Books, big and small, are available in abundance in every language. There is, therefore, no fear of the laws of Allah Ta’ala becoming obscure.

However, there exists the danger of nafsaani desire overwhelming you at the time of executing the commands of Allah. Such desire will prevent you from obeying the teachings of Allah and His Rasool, thus plunging you into sin, e.g. You become proud of the attainment of some bounty, hence you forget The True Benefactor (Mun’im-e-Haqeeqi). Or, at the time of calamity, the nafs overwhelms you and induces you to act in conflict with the Shariah.

Thus, of utmost importance is to remain submissive to Allah Ta’ala in every circumstance and condition which settles on you and to suppress the rebellion of the nafs.

People praise you on account of such Ausaaf-e-Hameedah (Praiseworthy attributes) which they believe are imbued within you. You should revile your nafs for the evil attributes in you.

Man is deceived by the praises which people laud on him on account of some attribute of excellence. Such praise produces ujub (vanity, self-esteem) in him. He then tends to forget his reality. It is for this reason that the Shaikh (rahmatullah alayh) says that people praise you for virtuous attributes which they imagine are in you. But, they in fact do not know if these imagined lofty attributes actually exist in you or not. If you are intelligent, you will not be deceived by their plots. Attribute their praises to their imagination while you should criticise and revile your nafs on account of the presence of evil attributes and bad habits. You do have irrefutable evidence, knowledge and experience of you own short-comings and evil qualities. Your knowledge of your evil attributes, therefore, is certain while of your good qualities, your knowledge is doubtful.

When the true Mu’min is praised, he feels embarrassed in front of Allah Ta’ala because he is being praised for an attribute which he cannot perceive with certitude in his nafs.

At all times the close servants of Allah have the perception of Allah Ta’ala. His Beauty, Excellence, Perfection and Grandeur are perpetually in view. In the presence of Allah, they have absolutely no existence. They believe themselves to be embodiments of deficiencies and evils. In relation to the Divine Presence they regard themselves to be non-existent.

In view of this conception, they feel highly embarrassed if praised, since they are aware of the non-existence of the attributes for which they are praised. However, the man who is ghaafil becomes puffed up with vanity believing that the praise is on account of some excellence which he most certainly possesses.

The greatest ignoramus is the man who forgets his proven evil attributes on account of the good qualities which people imagine to be in him.

Generally, people entertain a good opinion of a man and praise him. They conclude the existence of lofty attributes in a man from his behaviour, states and actions, e.g. when they see a man performing Namaaz with great care, they infer that he is a pious man (buzrug), even if all the attributes of sainthood are not found in him and even if his Namaaz abounds with satanic and nafsaani thoughts. Thus, the person who is delighted with the praise of imagined virtues in him while being blind to the certain defects in him, is the greatest ignoramus.

The stench of baatini evils is worse than the stench of physical putrefied matter. O ignoramus! How can you be pleased with such stench?

When your Maula (Master) activates the tongues of people with such praises which you do not deserve, then moisten your tongue with such praise which He deserves.

When people praise you, it in reality is the effect of Allah Ta’ala activating their tongues. If Allah Ta’ala employs the tongues of people to laud on you praises which you do not deserve, then it behoves you to offer such praise to That Pure Being, which is befitting to Him. Do not praise those who are praising you. Their praise in reality is Allah’s veil of concealment (Sattaari) which hides your defects from others. Therefore, do not become trapped by the praises of people.

In sin the pleasure for the nafs is overt and in obedience the pleasure is covert. The remedy for an ailment which is hidden is difficult.

As long as the nafs has not reached the stage of Mut-mainnah, it will interfere in every act, be it taa-at (obedience) or ma’siyat (sin). Its interference in ma’siyat is plainly evident. The nafs derives full pleasure in sin. Despite its knowledge of Divine Chastisement, the nafs perpetrates the sin because of the pleasure it derives.

The nafs does not refrain from staking its claim of pleasure in even obedience. But, it is difficult to understand this plot of the nafs. It is generally understood that the nafs has no share in taa-at because obedience is difficult and detestable to the nafs, hence in conflict with its wishes. It should be well understood that inspite of the difficulty of taa-at, the nafs does derive pleasure therein. In some persons is found love for fame; in some is show (riya). Even if the ibaadat is performed initially with Ikhlaas (sincerity), the nafs contaminates it with riya and hubb-e-jah. Some people believe that the pleasure and sweetness experienced in ibaadat are the goal to strive for. The sign of this misconception is that the nafs induces man to rush towards the form of ibaadat in which it derives greater pleasure. It will constrain one to refrain from other types of ibaadat even if these are obligatory since it does not derive pleasure therein, e.g. a man performs Nafl Namaaz in abundance but refrains from paying Zakaat. He experiences pleasure in Nafl Namaaz, not so in Zakaat. This indicates that in his performance of Nafl Namaaz the nafs derives some pleasure and that this person searches for the pleasure of the nafs, not for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. If he was interested in Allah’s pleasure, he would not abstain from paying Zakaat.

Thus, the nafs has its share of pleasure even in ibaadat. Although the operation of the nafs in ibaadat is extremely well-concealed, the people of insight (the Masha-ikh) are able to fathom it.

When an ailment is concealed, its remedy is difficult on account of diagnosis being difficult. When even awareness of the existence of the disease is lacking and the person is considered to be spiritually healthy, then the disease is incurable.

When there is ambiguity regarding two acts, making it difficult to decide the best option, then opt for the act which is more difficult on the nafs. The Haq is more difficult on the nafs.

When one experiences uncertainty in the choice of one of two Mustahab (meritorious) or Jaa-iz (lawful) acts, then it is necessary to reflect in order to establish which act is more difficult and displeasing to the nafs. Adopt the act which is more displeasing to the nafs. The act which is better for this person will be more difficult on the nafs.

The nature of the nafs is jahl (ignorance). It, therefore, always searches for things which are pleasurable to it while it flees from things which are beneficial for it.

The Hamd and Thana (Praises) of Allah Ta’ala prevent man from gratitude to his nafs and from honouring his nafs. The thought of fulfilling the Huqooq of Allah prevents from the remembrance of nafsaani pleasures.

Beautiful habits and virtuous attributes are purely the fadhl (grace) of Allah Ta’ala. When the bandah attributes his virtuous state to his nafs, he will be guilty of showing gratitude to his nafs, thereby honouring it. It does not behove the true Mu’min to do so.

The true and perfect Mu’min will recite the praise of Allah when goodness emanates from him because Allah Ta’ala is the True Actor. He is the Creator of all actions of man. The bandah is only the abode of manifestation for Allah’s acts of creation. He, therefore, should not attribute his virtuous deeds to his nafs.

When he offers Hamd and Thana to Allah Ta’ala, he will not view his virtues as the deeds of his nafs. Therefore, man should engross himself in proclaiming the praises of Allah Ta’ala and perpetually keep in mind the fulfilment of the Huqooq of Allah Ta’ala. He should not heed the pleasure of the nafs, i.e. in Ibaadat and Taa-aat he should not satisfy the desire of his nafs. The desire for Jannat, salvation from Jahannum and sweetness in worship should not be fixed as the goals of one’s pursuit. If these objects are his goals, his sincerity will be contaminated. The duty of the slave is to serve his Master. He should not be motivated by personal pleasure and desires.

If there did not exist the fields of emotional (nafsaani) desires and pleasure, there would then not have been the journey of Sulook by which the Saalikeen travel towards Allah Ta’ala because there is no physical distance for you to traverse in order to reach Allah Ta’ala. In the physical sense there is no separation between Allah Ta’ala and yourself.

Literally the meaning of Sulook is to traverse a distance (physical distance). In the terminology of the Sufiyaa, Sulook means to overcome and abandon the emotional and bestial attributes and desires by means of Mujaahadah (struggle against the nafs), Riyaadhat (specially designed devotional exercises), Taa-aat (acts of obedience) and Thikrullah. Man’s domination over his nafs should reach such a degree that observance of the laws of the Shariah becomes man’s nature and the heart remains engrossed in the remembrance of Allah Ta’ala. This stage of control and domination over the nafs is also called Wasl which means ‘having reached Allah Ta’ala’.

The desires and pleasures of the nafs have been described as ‘fields’ because the nafs runs and operates in them. If man was without nafsaani desires, there would not have been the spiritual journey for the Saalikeen since the objective of Sulook or Sêr Ilallaah (Journeying to Allah) is to subjugate the desires of the nafs to the Law of Allah by way of Mujaahadah. The meaning of Sulook here is the spiritual sojourn towards Allah, not a physical journey. The literal meaning could only be applicable if there was physical distance between man and Allah. But, Allah is not material or physical body and form.

Similarly, the meaning of Wasl with Allah Ta’ala also means the subjugation of the nafsaani promptings and desires.

The Qur’aanic verse:

“We are nearer to man than his jugular vein.”,

negates any idea of Sulook being a journey in which the Saalik has to traverse physical distance to reach Allah Ta’ala.



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