At a point in every person’s life, they are faced with constant coaxing — The Nafs vs. Faith. It is a battle from the moment you mature, until the moment you die. It’s the real essence of Jihad.
Nafs consists of negative human nature, namely: Pride, greed, envy, lust, stinginess, backbiting, and malice.
Imam Ja’far al‑Sadiq (AS) said:
The Prophet (SAW) of God dispatched a contingent of the army (to the battlefront). Upon their (successful) return, he (SAW) said, ‘Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad and have yet to perform the major jihad.’ When asked, ‘What is the major jihad?’ the Prophet (SAW) replied, ‘The jihad of the self (struggle against self).’
We often come at a cross roads in our life, when we look back over the time our Nafs has taken over, even after knowing it was wrong. Such are the lure and voices of Shaitaan that will lure you astray.
When looking back, be it whatever circumstance of the worldly desire you got lured in against your own knowledge, you will find yourself in one of these situations:
1. Regretting past actions.
2. Learning from the mistake and determined never to repeat it again.
3. What was I thinking?
4. I should have known better.
5. How could I be so dumb?
Yes, we have all been there. We learn from our mistakes — but not necessarily the same mistakes. Most of us fall into a recurring pattern of following the Nafs blindly and repeatedly, and it becomes a vicious cycle if you don’t break the pattern.
Here are the most common ways in which you can identify Nafs:
1. Prophet (SAW) gave us simple ways to know right from wrong. When you do something and want everyone to know about it, it is right. On the other hand, when you do something and want to hide about it, it is wrong.
2. It is against your faith.
3. You feel uncomfortable, guilty, or out of place following them.
4. Addiction. Yes, you just can’t stop or let go, even if your mind knows better.
Now that we have identified what constitute Nafs, let’s go into the last process of cleansing and snapping it away:
1. Intention: You really have to want to stop it from your own will. Realize that this is going to be detrimental in the long run, and it is better you let it go now rather than later, as prolonging it would become much harder to resolve.
2. Action: Once you have made up your mind and are ready for some soul cleansing, avoid circumstances, situations, and scenarios that would put you in a position of following your Nafs.
3. Productivity: For a few days, it will be difficult. So, find something to occupy yourself with. Develop a new hobby, read a new book, learn a new recipe, read the Qur’an — Anything good that would keep you occupied mentally.
4. Result: Once you feel yourself walking away, you will feel an overpowering sense of accomplishment, peace and Noor (divine light) spreading within.
This is Jihad – constantly fighting the Nafs and making the faith stronger.
I find talking about problems therapeutic. People always hide the bad and only bring out the good. I think we should talk about both. When I was stuck at a crossroads with my Nafs, it was a conversation with a friend who jolted me back into thinking, What the hell am I doing?
Sometimes you just need someone to tell you what you already know to start the process of cleansing yourself.
And if you believe that you are hopeless and can never cure yourself of these negative desires, thinking instead that it’s entirely impossible, I can assure you: With Dua’s and a little bit of faith, everything is possible.
image credit: angeltitan