When we are born, two faculties are created alongside us as challenges to make us vulnerable to committing crimes: Shaytan and Nafs. Shaytan, or Satan, has existed even before the Creation of Man and his only occupation is to invite us to do sinful things until our death. However, a brief study of Islamic history informs us of the existence of some men and women who were able to defeat Satan’s whisperings to such an extent that it was as if he did not exist for them. How were they able to accomplish such a feat? Those people were not prophets or messengers who are immune to any sin, rather they were the followers of the Prophets and the believers of Allah (SWT) . With that description you will notice one thing: they were people just like us. What was their secret of success? They were able to render their desires powerless. In fact, you might know some people around you who find it easier to avoid some sinful activities while you are constantly fighting with that same action. How are they able to do that?
Your nafs acts like a pleasure principle and it can be best translated as your psyche. If you divide your body in regards to its spiritual capabilities, you will have your soul on one side, and your psyche on the other. They are the mortal enemies in a constant battle – or jihad meaning struggle – and that battle decides your pathway in life. And this is where you come in.
In order to gain Allah’s (SWT) Mercy, you have to make sure that the soul always wins. Feeding the soul to make sure that it overpowers the psyche is the key. What effects the strength of these two opponents are the small things you feed them in life. For instance, upon waking up in the morning, if you blast your music or flip open the cell phone, the reward will go to the psyche. But if you follow the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) , then you will say the prayer for waking up and so you will start your day by feeding the soul first.
The psyche thrives on things which weaken the soul. Sleeping more than necessary will make it stronger while the requirement of the soul is to stay awake at nights to worship Allah (SWT). Listening or seeing unlawful things is the desire of the psyche as it gives it pleasure, while the soul is satisfied with avoiding the unlawful and applying the lawful. The psyche wants you to fill your stomach when you eat and the soul asks that you eat less to vitalize it.
The lesson to be taken is that some things might seem harmless to us. Listening to music, watching too much television, using foul language, talking during the call for prayer, and many other small things are in fact just the blows necessary to weaken our soul. In order to feed the soul, we need to learn to avoid small things such as the above so that Satan will not have the whisperings of the psyche to aid him in his quest. Instead, he will find your nafs so weakened and your soul so powerful with its constant remembrance of Allah (SWT) that he will not find success and will soon be discouraged to even approach you. Discouraging is our ultimate goal and in order to reach that, we have to put in a little bit of effort.
May Allah (SWT) help you in strengthening your soul and include you amongst those who are strong in faith. (Ameen).