There are verses in the Holy Qur’an that points out the viciousness of one's soul. If any of the faculties other than ‘Aql (intellect/reason) rules the soul, the soul descends to the level of (ammara) carnal desires. The Holy Qur’an says that your greatest enemy within you is your nafs al-ammara, no one can escape it lest Allah (SwT) shows his mercy towards this person.
وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي ۚ إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
‘Yet I do not absolve my [own carnal] soul, for the [carnal] soul indeed prompts [men] to evil, except in as much as my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is all-forgiving, all-merciful.’ (12: 53).
There is always an ongoing war within my existence, the war to drag me down to the ammara (carnal) level, or raise me to the mutamainna level(contentment). It’s a war between truth (Haqq) and false (Batil), between ‘Aql and the rest of the three faculties. It's not a war between the body and the soul. The body is a slave, it obeys what the soul commands, it all boils down to who is ruling your soul.
One might claim that it’s the ‘Aql that rules my soul, however, how do we verify, which of the four faculties is ruling our soul? Allah (SwT) has set a very simple yardstick to measure, it’s the actions of the person, that will determine if they are the followers of truth or falsehood. Whether the intellect is ruling our soul or the other faculties.
فَوَرَبِّكَ لَنَسْأَلَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ
By your Lord, We will question them all (15:92).
عَمَّا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
concerning what they used to do. (15:93).
If our actions are in sync with our claim that, we are on Haq, then we would be the felicitous ones, and if it is the otherwise then we would be the wretched ones.
وَالْوَزْنُ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْحَقُّ ۚ فَمَنْ ثَقُلَتْ مَوَازِينُهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
The weighing [of deeds] on that Day is a truth. As for those whose deeds weigh heavy in the scales - it is they who are the felicitous. (7:8).
So, the most essential question here is who wins the war ‘I’ or ‘ME’. If ‘I’ win the war ‘ME’ loses it and vice versa. Let me put it this way, which level of my soul wins the war? The carnal level or the content level, the ammara level, or the mutma’innah level. If the carnal level wins, then I am doomed for eternity. However, if the content level wins then I am felicitous for eternity.
Do I have a say in it? Can I decide who wins the war?
It reminds me of the blind mother and her four children. A blind woman gives birth to four children.
Bringing up four children is a challenging task, and bringing up four children when you are blind is a herculean task. She could not have abandoned her children, after all, she was the mother. Hence, she would set out every morning looking for simple chores in the neighborhood. She would wash clothes or utensils at people's houses and earn a penny or two. With that little income, she used to buy some bread and head back home to feed her kids. She would sit them up in a line opposite to her and would feed them in a sequence, one bite per person and then begin the second round.
Years passed and the kids grew up, healthy and strong. She then tells her kids, I have grown old and weak now, and you are all grown up. You must look for a job and earn some money, and take care of me, the way I used to take care of you when you were little children.
The young lads set out in search of a job. Each of them finds a good job and starts earning well. However, instead of returning home, they choose to settle down in their respective town. The old mother grows weak and ill waiting for her children to return and take care of her. After waiting for a week, with no one to feed her or take care of her. She calls out for help. ‘Is anyone there? Is there anyone who can help me?’ and she hears a faint feeble voice, ‘Yes Mother, I am here, but am too weak to help you. I wish to help you but I can barely move, I can barely breathe.’
The blind mother immediately recognizes the voice that it’s the fourth child. She inquires about his condition ‘What happened to you, my son? How did you end up like this?’. He then narrates what went by in the last 15 years.
O mother! You are the most loving and caring one. You have struggled through your life to give us comfort. You have sacrificed all you had to bring us up. You tried to feed us justly and equally. However, mother, since you are blind and you couldn’t see the other three sons, ate my share of food. They all teamed up against me and every time you would bring forth a piece of bread as my share, they would cover my mouth and one of them would take the bite from your hand. Over the time, I grew weaker and weaker, so much so that I couldn’t defend my self anymore and they grew stronger and stronger. Today they have abandoned you for their own pleasure and joy and I am here still with you. Though I wish to help you, I have no energy left to help you.
O, Mother! I love you more than I can say and I can sacrifice my life for you and it pains me to see you in this state, however, I am helpless.
Think about it, whose fault is it? Who is responsible for the miserable state of the mother and the son?
Clearly, we would like to blame the other three sons and truly they are the primary reason for it. However, to some extent, the mother is also responsible. Since she just kept feeding the wrong kids blindly, presuming that she is following the order and justice.
This is our story, the story of me and my faculties. It is me who decides which faculty rules my soul, based on whom do I feed more. If I feed wahm more, it rules my soul, if I feed Ghadhab more, it rules my soul, If I feed shahwat more, it feeds my soul, and if I feed my ‘Aql more it rules my soul. Unfortunately, I feel that I am being JUST by feeding the right faculty with enough dosage. However, unknowingly I am feeding the wrong faculties, strengthening them against ‘Aql. Such that when I utmost need help from ‘Aql, it has become weak and powerless. It cannot guide me anymore. Why? Cause we fed our desires and allowed them to rule our ‘Aql.
فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّمَا يَتَّبِعُونَ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ ۚ وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنِ اتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ بِغَيْرِ هُدًى مِنَ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
…Know that they only follow their desires, and who is more astray than him who follows his desires without any guidance from Allah? Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot. (Holy Qur’an, 28:50).
However, If I would have been careful and made sure that I do not overfeed the other faculties, instead would have kept them under check with the help of ‘Aql. Then I would have been in a much better place today.
فَإِذَا جَاءَتِ الطَّامَّةُ الْكُبْرَىٰ
When the Greatest Catastrophe befalls (Holy Qur’an, 79:34).
يَوْمَ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنْسَانُ مَا سَعَىٰ
the Day when man will remember his endeavors (Holy Qur’an, 79:35).
وَبُرِّزَتِ الْجَحِيمُ لِمَنْ يَرَىٰ
And Hell shall be placed in full view for (all) to see (Holy Qur’an, 79:36).
فَأَمَّا مَنْ طَغَىٰ
as, for him who has been rebellious (Holy Qur’an, 79:37).
وَآثَرَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا
and preferred the life of this world (Holy Qur’an, 79:38).
فَإِنَّ الْجَحِيمَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَىٰ
Then surely Hell will be the abode. (Holy Qur’an, 79:39).
وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ
As for him who is awed to stand before his Lord and restrains his soul from [following] desires (Holy Qur’an, 79:40).
فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَىٰ
Then surely Paradise will be the abode. (Holy Qur’an, 79:41).
Again, the choice lies with me, who do I want to win? The carnal desires or the rational intellect.
إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ
Indeed, the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the deaf and dumb who do not exercise their reason. (Holy Qur’an, 8:22).
Let's choose now who wins the war? ‘Ammara’ or ‘Mutma’innah’1?
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ تَزَكَّىٰ
‘Felicitous is he who purifies himself (Holy Qur’an, 87:14).
- 1. We are left with an important question. What about dunya then? Do I let go of it? I lose the dunya to gain the akhirat? InshaAllah we will address this question in our subsequent books.