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Discourse 23: Jihad Against The Soul

قَالَ الصَّادِقُ: إِحْذَرُوا أَهْوَائَكُمْ كَمَا تَحْذَرُونَ أَعْدَائَكُمْ فَلَـيْسَ شَيْءٌ أَعْدى لِلرِّجَالِ مِنْ إِتِّـبَاعِ أَهْوَائَهُمْ وَ حَصَائِدَ أَلْسِنَتَهُمْ.

Imam Ja’far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (as) has said: “Be aware of your lower desires just as you keep aware of your enemies since there is nothing which is a greater enemy to a person than following his lower desires and that which the tongue reaps.”1

The month of Ramazan has many specific programs contained within it - one of which is the fasting. Some people think that if they are sick or traveling and are not permitted to fast, then there is nothing left to the Month of Ramazan, however there are other aspects to this month other than fasting! One such program is the combat against the lower desires, and this responsibility shines greater than all other acts contained within this month.

The tradition quoted is in relation to this fact and it tells us that we must be aware of our lower desires just as we keep aware and distance ourselves from our (physical) enemies. One's greatest enemy is to listen to and follow the lower desires and to speak inappropriate things.

The lower passions, having desires and the act of rebellion are some of the aspects that make up a person's character. If the lower passions are placed under the control of the intellect, then there is no danger; however if they are left without control and parameters to work within and are left to the whims of the desires of the heart, then without doubt the laws of Allah (SwT) and the ethical conscience will not be recognized. Thus, this rebellious character that resides within the person is his lower passions - and this is the greatest enemy a person has.

When a person realizes he is in the presence of his enemy, then he would definitely make sure he is not in the vicinity of his strike and would ensure that he does not fall prey to his plots.

Unfortunately however, many people do not put up a fight in the face of their enemies, and in the same way, are actually friends of their lower passions and desires! What is even more amazing than this is when people take their lower passions to be their leader!

Definitely, there are many people who take their lower passions to be their object of worship:

أَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلٌهَهُ هَوَاهُ

“Have you seen the person who takes his lower desires as his lord?”2

Therefore, sometimes it is possible that a person would humble himself in front of his own lower desires!

One of the branches of monotheism (Tawhid) is Tawhid in obedience to Allah (SwT). The person who is a Muwahhid (believer in Monotheism) is the one who obeys none other than Allah (SwT) (the obedience to the Prophet (S), the Imam (as), one's father and mother and Marja’ Taqlid are all done through the command of Allah (SwT)). Thus, if we obey others along side Allah (SwT), then we have transformed our actions into polytheism (shirk) in worship.

Sometimes, the lower desires actually transform our heart into the house of idol worship! The heart in which only Allah (SwT) must be present is sometimes contaminated with various idols such as the love of wealth, status, our children and other things:

بت ساخته اى در دل و خنديدى   بر كيش بد برهمن و بودا را

One of the poets stated that sometimes, people sit and talk about others who worship idols in the traditional houses of idol worship whereas if they were to look within their own souls, they would see that it is the house of idols and that numerous false gods of worship reside in it!

مَنْ أَصْغى إِلـى نَاطِقٍ فَقَدْ عَبَدَهُ.

A tradition tells us that the person who listens to one who tells him something has actually worshipped that person! If the person speaking is extolling the words of Allah (SwT) then in essence, he has ended up worshipping Allah (SwT); however if the person speaking extols the words of Satan, then he has ended up worshipping Satan! Thus, if we listen to what our lower desire tells us to do, then in reality, we have worshipped it.

The actions during the Month of Ramazan are in place for this reason - so that we are able to recognize our enemies (and remove them) and to purify the society.

The number of sins we commit should come down significantly during the Month of Ramazan even if we can not fast, since fasting is only one way to fight against the lower passions and desires.

At this point, there are some issues mentioned in the tradition which must be noted:

1. The tradition uses the phrase “إحذروا” or “to be aware” and does not say, “do not obey (the lower desires).”  When one is aware of something, it means that he is always alert and conscious of what he is doing such that he does not fall prey to the lower desires, and this is a much higher level than just saying not to follow something.

2. The tradition also uses the phrase “أعداء للرجال” or “…an even greater enemy to a person…” and in our opinion this 'person' refers to the one who possesses character and true faith. Thus, this part of the tradition means that the greatest enemy for the true believer is his lower desires and passions and he must fear this enemy more than all others.

There is a well-known tradition which may also relate to this tradition under discussion which states:

أَلنَّاسُ كُلُّهُمْ هَالِكُونَ إِلاَّ الْعَالِمُونَ وَ الْعَالِمُونَ كُلُّهُمْ هَالِكُونَ إِلاَّ الْعَامِلُونَ وَ الْعَامِلُونَ كُلُّهُمْ هَالِكُونَ إِلاَّ الْمُخْلِصُونَ وَ الْمُخْلِصُونَ فِي خَطَرٍ عَظِيمٍ.

“All people shall be destroyed except for those with knowledge; and all of those who are endowed with knowledge shall be destroyed except for the ones who act according to their knowledge; and all of those who act according to their knowledge shall also be destroyed except the ones with sincerity and the ones who possess sincerity are in the greatest danger.”

and it is possible that this refers to the following of the lower desires.

3. The word “حصائد” is the plural of the word “حصيدة” and refers to something used to reap crops (such as a sickle that is used in the field to clear the crops). In the tradition under discussion, the tongue is compared to a sickle that is used to reap the crops. The sins which the tongue performs fall under the category of following the lower desires, however why it is that they have been mentioned separately in this tradition? This has been done so as to show the importance of this issue.

The sins which the tongue performs do not require any special tool to perform them, can be done night and day and in any state a person is in. Thus, the dangers which come from the tongue are much greater than any other organ of the body. In addition, the scholars have stated that there are approximately thirty major sins which can be done by the tongue!

There is no sin greater in the eyes of the people than those which the tongue performs as these are the most dangerous. In addition, the tongue is always at the disposal of the person (ready to work) and is ready to show its indecency when instructed to do so! This is the reason why Imam Ja’far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (as) has mentioned the sin performed by the tongue in this way.

The Noble Prophet (S) was once speaking to a desert ‘Arab and was describing the spiritual effects of the tongue and the dangers associated with speaking. The ‘Arab asked the Prophet (S):

أَفَنُؤَاخِذُ بِمَا نَقُولُ؟

“Shall we be taken to account for what we say?”
The Noble Prophet (S) replied:

وَ هَلْ تَكُبُّ النَّاسَ عَلى مَنَاخِرَهُمْ فِي النَّارِ إِلاَّ حَصَائِدِ أَلْسِنَتَهُمْ؟

“Shall mankind be thrown into the hell fire for any reason other than that which their tongues have earned?”

Therefore, the proof of the gravity of the sins committed by the tongue can be summarized as follows:

1. The number of sins committed with this organ is greater than any other part of the body, and according to the scholars, there are approximately thirty major sins that the tongue can perform!

2. The tongue, which everyone has access to is the easiest of means of committing these sins.

3. The despicability of the sins of the tongue is known to all!

  • 1. Ibid., vol. 67, pg. 82
  • 2. Suratul Furqan (25), Verse 43

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