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Struggling Against One's Base Desires (Nafs)

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Struggling Against One's Base Desires (Nafs)


Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmed (حفظه الله)


Those who believe and work righteous deeds, from them shall We blot out all evil (that may be) in them and We shall reward them according to the best of their deeds (29:7)


Mujahida is the term used for any mental, physical, or financial hardship that one may have to bear for the sake of Islam, and the above verse is a poignant one for such people who strive in the path of Allah سبحانه و تعالى. Mujahida can indeed be very personal, in the case of fighting one’s base desires (nafs) and subjugating it to the rule of Islamic Sacred Law (shariah). The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said that a mujahid is someone who struggles against his nafs for the sake of obeying Allah سبحانه و تعالى. (Note by AHD- Narrated by al-Tirmidhî in the book concerning the virtues of Jihad. He said: "This Hadîth is Hasan Sahih."


Al-Bayhaqî mentioned in Shu'ab al-Iman another narration from Fadala which states: "The Mujahid is he who struggles against his self in Allah's obedience and the migrant (Muhâjir) is he who migrates from sins and wrongdoings."-Mishkât al-Masâbîh: Kitab al-Imân: book 34)


The nafs always wants to lead mankind astray because it revels in acts that are against the shariah. Hence, a person becomes deserving of reward from Allah سبحانه و تعالى if he controls the unlawful desires of his nafs and subjugates it to the commandments of Allah سبحانه و تعالى.


Infinite Reward For Mujahida against the Nafs


Allah had blessed a student of Hadrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (رحمة اللہ علیه) with a successful business and hence a great deal of wealth. This student wrote his teacher a letter explaining that he felt hesitant to pay zakat (alms) when it was due, due to fears of financial loss and hardship. He would of course pay the correct amount due every year but amid apprehension of losing his wealth. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (رحمة اللہ علیه) replied back that he would earn twice the reward of people who merely pay their zakat without a thought, for he was not only fulfilling the command of Allah, but also struggling with his nafs over the issue. Man will earn reward every time he struggles against his nafs or other circumstances to fulfill the Will of Allah سبحانه و تعالى.


The nafs will always work hard to tempt man to act against the shariah; to fulfill unlawful desires. Shaitan in turn gives added strength to the nafs by tempting man from the outside, and hence together these two forces join in an ongoing effort to lead people astray. Man should stand determined against these forces and committed to obeying Allah سبحانه و تعالى. When he struggles against this onslaught it will be known as his personal struggle because he is fighting in the Path of Allah سبحانه و تعالى and will earn reward accordingly.


Allah سبحانه و تعالى rewards each and every action because He says in the Holy Quran that He will not let any action go to waste. Man is an ingrate who enjoys the countless blessings of Allah سبحانه و تعالى without realizing their tremendous value or thanking Allah سبحانه و تعالى for them. Allah سبحانه و تعالى on the other hand places great value on every righteous deed and does not let anything go to waste.


Man needs to realize the infinite bounties of his Creator that he takes for granted and he should return to worshipping his Lord instead of falling into the trap of worshipping his nafs. If man remains asleep at the time of Fajr then he abandons the command of Allah سبحانه و تعالى and becomes a worshipper of his nafs because his bed is dearer to him at that time. Likewise if he ignores the time of prayer like most of us do in gatherings like weddings then he has again abandoned the worship of Allah سبحانه و تعالى and given in to his nafs. Everything that takes away from the worship of Allah سبحانه و تعالى falls into the worship of the nafs, and man needs to fight against this so that he can again return to obeying Allah سبحانه و تعالى.


All the false gods that man worships cannot even create a fly if they unite together, and moreover cannot take back something that the fly might steal from them. Idols and the nafs are all such false gods, whereas the One to be sought is something beyond these illusions and fabrications. The Holy Quran continues in stark candor that man does not realize the true worth of his Creator.


Different Categories of the Nafs


Nafs is man’s enemy and must be trained so it is brought towards righteousness. Mujahida of the lovers of Allah سبحانه و تعالى today and through the ages has been to train this nafs so that it becomes an ally in serving Allah rather than an enemy. There are three stages or types of nafs.


Nafs ul Ammara is the worst category of nafs, in which a person not only commits sin but boasts of his sins and thus challenges Allah سبحانه و تعالى. This is an animalistic nafs that does not care about anything or anyone, least about pleasing Allah سبحانه و تعالى. This nafs is a close ally of Shaitan in pushing people away from Allah سبحانه و تعالى and Muslims should pray for deliverance from this type of evil.


Nafs ul Luwwama is a stage somewhat improved from this such that this type of nafs feels shame when it commits sins and repents to Allah سبحانه و تعالى. This describes the average Muslim who desperately wants to obey and please Allah سبحانه و تعالى but slips into sin because his nafs overpowers him at times. However, after falling into sin he immediately repents because he feels deeply ashamed. Although this nafs is definitely an improvement from the previous one, man should always keep striving to improve his nafs beyond this.


Nafs ul Mutma’inna is the best kind of nafs. It has been rectified and trained to obey Allah. Only the special lovers of Allah سبحانه و تعالى who have struggled their whole lives against their nafs are so blessed. This type of nafs now remains preoccupied with the sunnah and other ways by which to please Allah سبحانه و تعالى. Moreover, people with this type of nafs not only run from sin but Allah سبحانه و تعالى protects them from sin and keeps them on the path of the shariah. This nafs struggles so hard to improve itself that Allah سبحانه و تعالى will admit it into Paradise on the Day of Judgment as He promises in the Holy Quran. This is the nafs that man should beg for and beseech from Allah سبحانه و تعالى.


Mujahida till Death


Ever since Shaitan was exiled from Paradise, mujahida has been written in man’s destiny since Shaitan promised to lead man astray at every opportunity. Allied with Shaitan within man is his nafs, constantly urging him to act against Allah’s wishes and toward the fulfillment of evil base desires.


Trapped alongside the nafs within the body is the ruh (spirit), which is inherently pure and constantly struggles to act according to Allah’s wishes. Hence man is destined to struggle between good and evil until he triumphs over his nafs by the mercy of Allah سبحانه و تعالى. Man is weak and cannot do anything alone; hence Muslims should constantly pray to Allah سبحانه و تعالى for help in making their nafs submit to His Will.



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