Spiritual Development: When Should I be Lenient or Strict on Myself?

When it comes to developing the soul, we have two areas. We have the area of resisting desire and we have the area of worship and 'Ibaadah. When it comes to worship and 'Ibaadah, do not be too tough on yourself. Aside from the Wajib Salah, let us say the Mustahabbat, Salat ul-Layl, for instance. If you force yourself and keep dragging yourself, eventually you will lose interest.

So, for instance, let us say it is night and you would like to do so Salat ul-Layl but you just do not feel like doing it. You have two options either to force yourself and get up and pray the eleven Rak'ah or just get up and pray two Rak'ah, just two. If you pray two Rak'ah only you will interact with the 2 Rak'ah, because it is light, it takes two minutes. Two minutes of interaction is far better than praying eleven units and you feel forced and you are dragging yourself.

So, when it comes to this fear of 'Ibadah, what we learned from the path of Ahl ul-Bayt, do not force yourself too much, because you will lose interest. Do not be too lenient as well. Encourage yourself. Start with 2 Rak'ah. See? Do not altogether avoid the 'Ibadah at night and be too lenient on yourself, reduce it-just two Rak'ahs.

You do not feel like doing the two Rak'ahs, do Tasbih for two minutes. Take a deep breath, subhana Allah, al-hamdu li-Llah, La ilaha illa Allah. It has an effect, it will transform you. It will transform you, I guarantee you. But do not just sleep without any 'Ibadah. Be consistent even if it is a Tasbih that you will do before you sleep.

So, when it comes to this fear of 'Ibadah, do not break yourself too much. Do not force yourself too much.

When it comes to this fear of resisting your desires, you have to be tougher on yourself. Because desires know no limits. You have to tame your desires. If you say to your desire yes, it takes ten steps forward and it keeps growing and growing until it overpowers you. You create a monster that will eventually overpower you. So, when it comes to your desires, be as tough as you can. It is very important. Mukhalafat al-Hawaa'. That is extremely important.

In fact, the Prophet, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa alihi, states, 'akhwafu ma akhaafu alaykum ithnaan- 'Two things I am most concerned about from my Ummah, from people. Number one is 'Ittiba' ul-Hawaa' [following desires], 'wa towlu al-amal [having long hopes], number two.' One of them is to have long hopes. What does long hope mean? Thinking you are living for eternity, there is no death, Insha Allah.

How many people have I talked to in my life? They know they need to change, they need to repent. They know. They do not disagree but, insha Allah in the future. Insha Allah, one day when I go to Hajj.

Insha Allah, one day, you know, in the future Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, will grant me the Tawfiq to start praying, to wear the Hijab. A lot of sisters tell me this. They agree Hijab is good, it is necessary, Allah wants it from them. But Insha Allah, Insha Allah, when I go, you know, to the Hajj, then I will wear the Hijab. See? That is long hopes. That is, having long hopes. Or a sister once told me I agree Hijab must be worn. I do not dispute it, but Insha Allah, when I get married. See? Keep postponing it. Postponing it. That is long hopes.

First of all, how do you know you will be given that life? What if, before you ended up going to Hajj, the angel of Death knocked at your door? No, he does not knock. He just intrudes. He only knocked the door of the Prophet, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa alihi. How do you know?

And number two, what makes you think that when you will go to Hajj, you will still be firm? Maybe you will change your mind later. Maybe you will decide you do not even want to go to Hajj. Then what happens? So, the Imam says false hopes.

And the second one is, 'Ittiba' al-hawaa'- 'following your desires'. The Imam says I am concerned most about this. When you follow your desires. So, opposing your desires, stopping your desires, saying no to your desires is very key. Try as much as you can. Don't be easy on yourself. When you become easy on yourself, your desires will eventually outgrow you. Always keep them in check. Always.

That is why it is even Mustahab, it is not Wajib, it is Mustahab, even with halal desires, put a limit. Put a limit to always remind your Nafs, I am in control, not you. If you desire to eat a lot, for example, that delicious meal, cut back on it, it is Halal! No problem.

You desire to sleep 10 hours on the weekend. Say no to your Nafs, no! I will make it seven. I know you want ten, but I will make it seven. Just make a point to yourself. Whenever, on a daily basis, you make it a point to yourself that I'm in control and I will decide, I dictate to you, you do not dictate to me. You will always stay strong. You will always have that willpower.