The Snake Catcher & the Snakes

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Mawlana Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi (q.s.) related a story of a snake catcher who once went to the mountains.  Due to the winter cold and heavy snow, many very big snakes lay motionless, as if they were dead.  The snake-catcher picked up one of these seemingly lifeless snakes and took it to Baghdad, with the purpose of using it for a show.  Showing it off, he made big claims as to how he had deftly captured the snake, captivating the attention of his audience.

However, when the sun began to shine and its warmth cloaked the snake, the coldness in its body disappeared.  The signs of life were soon apparent and when the snake began to move, the snake-catcher and all those around, fled.  Mawlana ar-Rumi (q.s.) then explained that our nafs is like that snake. With tadzkiyyah and mushaqqat, our nafs becomes frozen.  It appears to be dead.  But give it a little heat from the fire of sin and it will bite again.  A little exposure to some past sins and the nafs swings back to life.

It is foolish to believe we have killed our nafs and, thus, become unmindful.  With some mujahadah, swuhbah of the shaykh, tilawat of the Qur’an, dzikrullah, following the shari’ah and cultivating love for Allah (s.w.t.) and Rasulullah (s.a.w.), the nafs can be frozen.  However, a little taste of sin easily revives the nafs.

Khwaja ‘Aziz al-Hasan Majdzub (q.s.) said most aptly:

“Have no trust in this nafs, O devout one!
Even if it becomes an angel,
Remain distrustful of it.
Look at the snake of your nafs.
As soon as you are negligent here,
It bites there.”


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