Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) said:
مَا الُْمجاهِدُ الشَّهِيْدُ فِى سَبِيْلِ اللّهِ بِأَعْظَمَ أَجْراً مِمَّنْ قَدَرَ فَعَفَّ
One who struggles in the way of God and is martyred is not higher in rank than the one who can commit a sin but refrains.1
In the eyes of Islam, the most worthy striving is that against one’s own unlawful desires. Moreso, when one lives in an environment where opportunities to commit sins are plenty and indulgence is commonplace. This requires a strong grounding in morality and control over one’s self and is also necessary for the struggle against enemy to be worthy and fruitful – a battle fought with sincerity, solidarity, pure intention, free from any selfishness and personal interest.
Thus the Imam’ is saying that those who succeed in the battlefield of desires, resist sins and remain chaste in contaminated environments, are not in a lower rank than the martyrs in the way of god.