أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I came through one of the best articles that I ever read. Those who are striving against their nafs in the path of Allah SWT would know how important is this article. maashaaAllah such a beautiful reflection that I dont have words to describe. I have just copied and pasted here so the readers can benefit by the leave of Rabbul alameen.

Hazrat Shahidullah Faridi (RA)
Translated by
Mohammad Akmal Saifie

The process of man’s “internal struggle” can be conceived through the example of the military expeditions of the Holy Prophet (On whom be peace) which took place after the ‘Hijrat’.  Each encounter took place under peculiar situations to it, and no two expeditions can be classified as similar.

We find that the physical experiences of the Muslims during these wars reflected their spiritual aspirations and strength at the time.  Thus these expeditions were a type of a ‘Suluk’ (spiritual journey) as in the war experiences and lessons emerging therefrom for the Muslims forces, parallels are available for the successive stages in the ‘Suluk’.

‘Hijrat’ itself is like ‘Taubah’ (Repentance).  Those who participated in it turned towards Allah.  Followed the Holy Prophet (On whom be peace) and in this way turned away from their former world and its attractions.  Similarly when man steps into the ‘Suluk’ he take a ‘Baiat’ (vow of allegiance to stand up for Allah) and this an act of repentance concerning his activities prior to taking the ‘Baiat’ and a resolve to overpower the ‘Nafs’ (the evil force) within him in the future.  Initially, the ‘Salik’ (traveller) is overawed by the ‘Nafs’ and the task of overpowering it appears a formidable one to him because he has been accustomed to being dictated to by it, i.e. his heart has been in the control of the ‘Nafs’, and at this stage he is unable to appreciate the might or potential force of the ‘Ruh’ due to inexperience.

The first expedition following the ‘Hijrat’ was the “Battle of Badr” – Muslims (spiritual force) versus the polytheists (evil force).  Since this was the first encounter, some of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (On him be peace) were not only doubtful of success but were actually afraid of the enormous odds.  But what actually happened was that Allah gave them special help and courage, and contrary to their expectations they won this encounter. This is precisely what happens in the ‘Suluk’.  The ‘Salik’ learns that the enemy (evil force of the ‘Nafs’) is not really that powerful and recognises the reality and power of God’s help.  He understands the meaning of “God’s help” and also learns that the initial ‘break-through’ against the ‘Nafs’ was made only with special aid from Allah.  As a result, he suddenly finds courage, heretofore unknown to him, and now has a different view of the might of the ‘Nafs’.  He is not afraid anymore!

The ‘Nafs’ is an “aggressor” by nature, and its aggression against the ‘Ruh’ increases in proportion to the increase in strength of the ‘Ruh’ (upto a certain stage).  So after the first ‘set-back’, the ‘Nafs’ becomes wary of the might of the ‘Ruh’ and resolves to fight harder in the next encounter.  This situation has a parallel in the experiences of ‘Uhud’ the Muslims entered this conflict with a high moral and were confident that God’s help will come again, and were not awed by the enemy’s strength this time.  But, during the battle as victory appeared to be in sight some of the Muslims left their battle positions and scrambled for the Booty.  They did so in direct contravention to the command of the Holy Prophet which was that under no circumstances the ‘Archers at the Pass’ were to leave their positions.  This move of disobedience therefore created disaster providing an immediate upper hand to the enemy.  Had it not been for God’s help, the Muslims would surely have been completely routed.  God mercifully saved them: but not without the lesson that if your motives are going to be selfish (Booty), then God’s help cannot be expected.  His help is for “Jehad’.

A similar situation is also experienced by the ‘Salik’, when he comes to desire the acquiring of spiritual powers for himself.  He wants to acquire ‘Kashf’ (revelation of the hidden), ‘Ilqa’ (premonition), ‘Ilham (inspiration).  In other words, he wants to go directly after the ‘Booty’ and tends to stray from the main objective.  These are actually “selfish” motives emanating from the ‘Nafs’.  There is no room for “selfish” motives in the ‘Jehad’ against the ‘Nafs’, otherwise the ‘Salik’ is doomed to failure because God’s help will not be forthcoming.

In the ensuing stages, as the ‘Ruh’ develops and gains “combative” experience and strength, the ‘Nafs’ upon realising that the ‘Ruh’ is a very formidable force and cannot be overpowered, tends to panic in frustration and goes in for a final, “all-out’ attack.  A parallel of this type of situation may be viewed from experiences of the ‘Battle of the Ditch’.

The enemy attacked the Muslims with its full might and fury, and this encounter represented a ‘finality’, in a sense.  The Muslims, who had not as yet achieved full strength, adopted a new strategy – they simply “held on” to their positions and were not prepared to be impressed by the enemy’s strength, or simply refused to recognise the odds.  This was of course done on Allah’s direction and represented ‘Istiqamat’ (steadfastness).  The enemy eventually just gave up!

‘Istiqamat’ in ‘Suluk’ is not only a powerful weapon against the ‘Nafs’, it is also the most useful one.  This is a much recommended approach and the ‘Salik’ is “Shielded” by ‘Fear of God”-“Taqwa” (protecting oneself from God’s displeasure) and these qualities help to ward off attacks of the ‘Nafs’.  Having ‘Istiqamat’ or adopting it,  is indicative of a ‘conclusive’ stage in the ‘Suluk’, just as the “Battle of the Ditch” represented a sort of a finality, in the sense that there were no further attacks from the Meccan’s side of any speekable magnitude, on the muslims after that war.  This, however, does not mean that the ‘Ruh’ is free from any further mischief from the ‘Nafs’.  Because the triumph of the ‘Ruh’ is gradual, or that spiritual development takes place stage by stage, there are other types of tests to be taken.  In other words, the ‘Nafs’ employ a totally different type of tactics!  The overt hostile attacks having failed, it resorts to covert, deceptive methods.

A typical feature of the ‘Suluk’ is that before the goal has been reached, Allah shows a “glimpse” of the destination to the ‘Salik’, and there is a great wisdom in this.  Following the “conclusive” triumph at open conflict (Battle of the Ditch), the Holy Prophet was shown a dream in which he was granted permission to perform “Umra”.  The Holy Prophet made full preparations, and accompanied by his companions, proceeded to perform this pilgrimage.  But this ‘Umra’ was not performed.  And some of his companions raised concern and pointed to the sanction of his dream.  The Holy Prophet replied that, “the sanction was granted by Allah, but it will not be performed this year”.  Thus, the lesson which emerged from this incident was that of “Sabr” (Patience).

Similarly, patience and tests of it are necessary conditions of the’Suluk’.  The ‘Salik’ tends to get impatient, and laments about not having been rewarded despite his undertaking the rigours of the Mujahida’.  But, there is an appointed time for everything and events are completely controlled by God.  it is entirely His Will.  The timing of the “awards” should not be pleaded for and cannot be dictated.  The sensible approach is to persevere patiently.

The ‘Nafs’ now employs a new type of tactics-covert and deceptive!  This is a stage in the ‘Suluk’ where both the ‘Nafs’ and the ‘Ruh’ operate within their respective spheres and none has any power over the other.  But the ‘Nafs’ being a habitual “mischief-monger” resorts to guile and deception.  Experiences connected with the ‘Treaty of Hudaibiya’ bear a parallel.  This was an inconclusive truce, to start with.  But the enemy violated the rules, and deceptively attempted to penetrate the Muslim strength.  So God ordered that the idols in the Kaa’ba should be smashed, i.e. the enemy should be completely crushed.  With God’s help, this is precisely what was done at the conquest of Mecca, leaving the enemy absolutely powerless.

Deep in the heart of man, there are ‘idols’-those of “selfishness” and “egotism” – impossible to reach without God’s help.  But when help comes from God and these hidden ‘idols’ are crushed, a stage of spiritual heights has surely been reached.  It is at this point in the ‘Suluk’ that the ‘Nafs’ has been overpowered by the ‘Ruh’, and becomes a “Muslim”, as if it were, just like the conversion of the remaining Meccans following the breaking of the idols by the Holy Prophet instead of opposition to the ‘Ruh’, the ‘Nafs’ actually becomes cooperative.

Even after the highest stage of  ‘Suluk’ has been reached, the mischief of the ‘Nafs’ does not completely cease.  There is periodical interference: now through its other traits, which are comparatively  minor but about which the ‘Salik’ was heretofore unaware.  An example of this is in the experience of the Muslims in the ‘Battle of Hunain’.  The Muslims were ‘too sure ‘ of victory on the basis of their enormous strength as compared to the enemy.  But what actually happened was, that simply on account of a natural factor, lack of visibility (light), they fell into disarray and at one stage had actually fled from the battle scene.  Had it not been for the help of God and the Holy Prophet who stood his ground, practically alone, facing the enemy, this battle would have been a catastrophe.  The result was not only victory but collection of Booty of unprecedented proportions.

Having achieved domination over his ‘Nafs’, the ‘Salik’ tends to feel proud and may fall prey to yet another deceptive tactic of the ‘Nafs’.  He tends to ascribe his success to himself.  It is, therefore, dangerous to forget the fact that it is God who bestows everything and the ‘Salik’ should pass on the credit to Him; where it properly belongs.

The achievement of the ‘spiritual heights’ provides such delightful “luxuries” of worship that one is tempted to busy himself in this solitude, and to avoid any involvement in the spiritual development or correction of others.  This approach and attitude is, however, not permitted.  The Quranic injunction specifically stresses his interests and effect towards others, “save themselves and others from the fire”.  Those who engage themselves in solitary worship at this high stage, in effect become victims of covert manpowers (deception) by the ‘Nafs’ which succeeds in ‘fooling’ a man into believing something to be proper and good, whereas in reality it is not proper for him and is against Allah’s commands.

Experience connected with the ‘Expedition of Tabuk’ bear examples of the foregoing point.  In that encounter against the Christians and the Jews, the Holy Prophet had greatly stressed participation in that effort, particularly for the people of Madina.  This stress is included in the Quran (Surah Taubah).  Yet there were some who did not respond to this call, and put forth excuses for staying behind – such as, that it was necessary for some men to stay Medina as ‘rear-guards’ and that the heat would be too severe!  Although some of their excuses appeared to be intelligent, their staying behind was really due to cowardice.  Even God severely reprimanded these people and through the Quranic ordinances we find that only some were excused: while the rest were not excused.

It is incumbent upon one who has reached ‘spiritual heights’ not to ignore the right that others in the community have over him, and to keep before him the command of Allah and act accordingly.

The incident of Tabuk highlighted the point about the ‘Hypocrites’ who were outwardly with the Muslims from the beginning to the end, stayed among the Muslims, but covertly they were upto mischief against the believers.  The ‘Nafs’ also operates in a similar fashion.  Its hypocritical traits can be dangerous as it disguises them, i.e., what appears to be a ‘good’ act is in reality not ‘good’.  Inflicting physical and mental cruelty on other i.e. persecution to obtain one’s rights or to correct them are examples of such deception of the ‘Nafs’.  This is an everpresent danger from the “enemy-within” and requires continuous watch and fore-armament.

It is significant that the Holy Prophet proceeded first with the purification of souls of men, and the eradication of evils of the world followed thereafter.  This indicates that the reform of others cannot be achieved unless one thoroughly reforms oneself, and that an external spiritual and moral revolution has to be proceeded by an internal one.



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