Struggling Against Oneself

O you whose desirous self has subdued him, overpower your desires with the whip of endeavour and strong will, because when it becomes aware of your earnestness and seriousness of purpose, it will surrender to your command. And, prevent it from enjoying what it desires from the lawful things, so that it agrees to abandon the unlawful. Therefore if it endures leaving the lawful and permissible then you have the choice “either [confer] afterwards or ransom.” (Muhammad 47:4)

This worldly life and Shaytan are enemies who have come out against you, and await you from outside, whereas your base self is your inner enemy with a close vantage point, therefore you should know that from the etiquettes of Jihad [i.e. fighting and struggling against ones own desires] is to “fight those adjacent to you.” (al-Taubah 9:13)

That said, when your desirous self inlines towards desires, lusts and whims, you should restrain it with the reins of piety, and when it neglects acts of worship and obedience, you should discipline it with the whip of self struggle, and when it enjoys the drink of inadvertence and likes wearing the garment of indolence, you should yell at it with the voice of firm, strong resolve, and when it views itself through the eyes of arrogance you should remind it of its base origin [a sperm drop]. By Allah, if you do not endure the bitterness of medicine in your throat you shall never be assured of even a tiny bit of good health in your body. The troops of your desires have housed themselves inside yourself, fortifying the fortress of lassitude and negligence. So charge with the soldiers of piety with the swords of strong will-power drawn out, and storm their gates!

The example of the self of mankind is like a worthless dog; when it is full it sleeps, and when it is hungry it ogles around wagging its tail. The civilised is approached politely whereas the uncouth barbarian is approached by force.

One of the righteous predecessors used to walk with a spring in his step whenever he succeeded in subduing his desires, like a marksman who feels pride in hitting his target. Strengthen your will and your endeavour in the struggle against yourself, because in this struggle enemies will always exist, even if there are no wars. The success of the struggle of our Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, reached such a high level of strength that its effect extended to reach and influence even those who showed enmity angst him; thus even the evil spirit [Qarin– each person has two kinds of Qarin; an Angel that suggest goodness to the person, and a devil that suggests evil to the person] that followed him, embraced Islam.

O Allah, direct us to the means with which we can subdue our evil Qarin for they are the closest of our enemies, and exert the most influence over our selves.

O you, stop paying attention to your desirous self, and steal from it what may benefit you afterward, for life is very short. Thus, complain to Allah about the injustice that your desires self causes to yourself, and seek the Creator’s aid in order to achieve victory over it, for He commands you with worship and work, while you go the opposite way.

Though you rush to join the fight, but you are not actually taking a side in the battle. You would like to reach the loftiest ranks, though you have not yet taken one step upon the staircase of struggling and striving! How is it that you wait for the harvest, when you have not even planted any seeds? If Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, had not opted for, “Prison is more to my liking” (Yusuf 12:33) He would have not come out of it to the comfort and enjoyed the consequences of “And thus We established Yusuf in the land” (Yusuf 12:56)

Indeed speed in travelling might come about when the journey is under the wings of the night, wealth might be attained after suffering, and a face might radiate with light after paleness.

When the believers habituated themselves to upright conduct through discipline, they effectively signed a contract with Allah; “Indeed, Allah had purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise.” (al-Taubah 9:111) However, you should know that the desirous self is never pleased unless it is satisfied, because it is like a rebellious dog, therefore what should be sought is a hunting dog, not a common stray.

Woe to you, the limbs of body are like water channels reaching water to the trees, and should the water be impure it will affect the fruits. You start the day by unleashing your body’s extremities to hunt for idle pastime and distractions, and when the time of prayer commences you bleat at your limbs to answer the call, but they never respond to you because they have not been trained to do so. How far is that state of a limb from fear and humility to the Almighty that had never been straightened and disciplined by the command: “Tell believers to lower their gaze and guard their private parts…” (al-Nur 24:30) And how far is the state of a heart from reflections, when it is not even agitated by the fear of the fact that Allah, “He knows the secret and what is even more hidden.” (Taha 20:7)

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 55-59