Chapter 4: I Have Needs And Desires

The grand day was here, the day that I have waited for many long years, As I look at my reflection the glass doors slideway and I was struck with the awe of the beauty of the place, huge hall with shiny walls as I walk in, I am welcomed by a well-dressed, decent man. However, I was so distracted that I barely paid any attention to him, I kept walking towards it, and its irresistible beauty just dragged me to it. It reminded me of Gollum from Lord of the rings, my heart was pounding hard and at the back of my mind I could hear those whispers "My preciousssss" "My Preciousssss"…. Rather "My Mustangggg" "My Mustangggg"….

I was then disturbed by the same decent man, "May I be of help to you sir?". I said, "Ah yes, I am interested in this Mustang." He looked surprised to hear it from me. He asked "What do you know about this car?" and I rattled out all the information I had about it, starting from its design to its engine to its speed… He said "But you are quite young yet! Have you driven a car before?"

Well, He was right I was quite young and I never sat behind the steering wheel of any car let alone a mustang.

The man looked at me and said "A good car like this deserves a good driver. It’s the driver that matters the most, the car is secondary. One can have the best car, but if they do not have the driving skills, the car is worth scrap, on the other hand, a good driver can make a masterpiece out of an average car."

I guess he was right, it doesn't matter what car I have if I do not know how to drive. However, If I had mastered the driving then even an average car is good enough and if I get a good car, it’s the cherry on the cake.

Probably it’s a message for Irfan to pay attention to, maybe the words of that man had more depth to it than Irfan had thought.

We know that our existence has two aspects to it, the body and the soul. However, the question remains, which among them is the car? and which is the driver?

Is the soul the car and body the driver, or is the body the car and soul the driver? Am I supposed to take good care of the car? or am I supposed to take good care of the driver?

Clearly, every car has certain needs, rather every 'body' has certain needs, like basic needs, security needs, and social needs.

Abraham Maslow in his need Hierarchy states that apart from other needs, every man has 'Basic needs' like food, water, and shelter; 'Security needs' and 'Social needs'. If these needs are addressed the body is in comfort.

However, should we forget that every driver has needs too? Or rather every soul has needs too. Should we be focused only towards the comfort of the body and ignore the needs of the soul totally?

One might say Ahem! Ahem! Sorry, I do not understand. Does a Soul have needs? What needs? And how come I am unaware of any such thing?

Well, let's look at the man once again with a new perspective. Man has two aspects to its existence body and soul. The physical and the metaphysical. The body is blessed with certain senses through which we sense the needs of the body. We call them physical senses like our five senses. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, however, there are other senses too, through which we sense our joy, sadness, emotions, hunger, etc. (There is more detail to it, which inshAllah we may deal in our subsequent chapters or books.)

However, a physical body lacks the ability to sense the needs of the soul. None of the five senses can sense or evaluate the health status of the soul. That is so because the physical body lacks the ability to sense the needs of the metaphysical existence. However, if one works on their metaphysical being (purification of the soul and self-discipline) and strengthens it then it's a different story.

Let's look at an example from the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SwT) says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ الْيَتَامَىٰ ظُلْمًا إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ نَارًا.

“Indeed, those who consume the property of orphans wrongfully, only ingest fire into their bellies…” (4:10).

From the above verse we understand that those who usurp the property of the orphans are essentially eating fire, however, do they feel the fire in their bellies? Or are they absolutely oblivious about it? Does the physical body sense the burns and seek treatment or cure for it? Do we seek a cure for our souls?

There are many verses in the Holy Qur’an that point towards this aspect that the soul (nafs) suffers from sickness. However, we rarely find anyone striving hard to save the soul or treat and cure it.

So, what are the needs of the soul?

The scholars have argued that some of the essential needs of the soul are its desire to attain perfection, its desire for pure knowledge, its desire to grow, its desire for religious spirituality. Unfortunately, these needs cannot be perceived by the 5 senses of the body, Hence, we never realize their absence and never work towards attaining them. This results in malnutrition and a weak soul. A weak soul cannot attain perfection.

How good is a body if the soul is very weak or almost dead?

How good is a super-fast car if the driver has absolutely no driving skills?

Let's be clear here, we are not denying the body, we are not denying the existence of the body, nor are we saying that the body is not important. We are trying to understand the relationship between the body and the soul and the importance of the soul in relation to the body.

It's not enough to have a healthy body, but its also necessary to have a healthy soul. If one of them is weak, we cannot attain the desired results. Especially if the soul is weak, it's impossible to attain the desired outcome i.e., perfection and kamal.

This is the reason why Allah (SwT) invites us towards Salat(prayers), Sawm (Fasting), Du’a, and Qur'an. because it strengthens the soul and helps us attain the kamal.

Allah (SwT) in the Holy Qur’an says:

اتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ

"Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and maintain the prayer. Indeed, the prayer restrains from indecent and wrongful conduct, and the remembrance of Allah is surely greater." (29:45).

Maintaining the prayers will restrain from indecent and wrongful conduct, cause indecent, and wrongful conduct impacts the soul and weakens it. Restraining from indecent acts strengthens one soul and leads them towards perfection.

So, I (body+Soul) have needs and desires and if I do not fulfill them, I(body+Soul) and would grow weak and die.

Imagine this. A mother is trying to feed her playful three-year-old baby, after every bite, the baby runs away, with much pleading and pleasing the baby comes back for the second bite. However, halfway through the baby refuses to eat anymore. The baby hasn’t eaten well in the last whole week, the mother has noticed that the baby is turning pale. Now the mother has to use alternative methods to get the baby to eat. As a first step, the mother goes, food is important you should eat your food and finish it, If the baby doesn’t respond positively, then the mother tries to attract the baby with a reward. if you finish the food, I will reward you, a special fruit, candy, or some gift. After much effort, if the baby still refuses to eat, then the mother has to warn the baby, that if you do not eat, you will fall sick, then you want be able to play or go to your friend's house. If the baby still refuses to eat then the mother has to scare the baby, that if you do not eat then I will have to take you to the doctor and he will give you injections. If the baby still doesn’t listen to the mother, then the mother has to catch hold of the baby and forcefully feed the baby.

A passerby, unaware of the background, watches the mother feed the baby and thinks, what a heartless mother, which other in this world treats their baby like this.

So, does this mother truly hates its baby? Is she an enemy of the baby or is it the motherly love that has made her scare the baby with injections and then actually forcefully feed the baby?

If you ask the baby, the baby would say, ‘I hate my mother, she always forces me to eat food, sometimes through reward or sometimes through punishment. She just doesn’t understand that I do not like to eat food.’ However, if you ask the mother, she would say ‘The baby needs to eat food, if it doesn’t eat food, it would grow weak and sick and die and I cannot watch my baby die. Hence, I have to make sure that it eats food every day, even if it means that I have to scare it with injections and doctors. The baby is too dear for me to see her suffer.’

Man is body and soul when the body needs nutrition or is growing weak or falls sick, it lets us know, and our senses inform us that we are hungry or thirsty or need certain special nutrients or that we are sick. However, when the soul grows weak or is sick, we do not feel its sickness. Since we do not feel its sickness, we ignore its needs. Allah (SwT) is aware of how oblivious man is regarding his soul. Thus He (SwT) first warns us if you do not offer prayers, or fast or observe hijab, or pay khums, your soul will grow weak, so follow the rulings of Islam. However, there is one group that still continues to disobey, then Allah (SwT) tries to attract them with a reward, if you obey me, I will reward you with heaven, it has great mansions in it made of gold and ruby and emeralds. Some people get attracted to these rewards and obey Allah (SwT). However, there are still a few who refuse to obey Allah (SwT), then He (SwT) tells you that if you do not obey hellfire is waiting for you(injections), it is hotter than the sun, boiling iron will be casted in your ears1, etc. IS this because Allah (SwT) is our enemy, He is a vengeful, arrogant God? Is he a taskmaster? That if we do not listen to him, He (SwT) loves punishing us? Or it is His (SwT) infinite love for us, That He (SwT) cannot bear to see us suffer in the hereafter, hence first He (SwT) tries to attract us with rewards and if we still do not obey then He (SwT) warns us with punishment. So that we continue to feed our soul and it doesn’t grow weak and die. Cause He (SwT) cannot bear to see the man, slaughter its own soul.

  • 1. There is a concept of physicalisation of our intentions and acts in Islam, which states that everyact we do, takes a physical form in the metaphysical world. Hence if we send salwat, it takes a beautiful form in the hereafter and if we commit sin, it comes to us as an ungly deformity upon our body in the hereafter.