Pruning the Human Personality

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is a transcript of discourse delivered by Mawlana Waffie Mohammed.

One of the greatness of the mission of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is that he was able to help and teach us how to trim off all the unwanted habits and desires of the human personality.  This process is referred to as tazkiyyah an-nafs or purification of the baser self.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) was Commanded to rehearse the Signs of Allah (s.w.t.), to teach the people everything about the working of the Allah (s.w.t.); to sanctify them and to teach them the wisdom of the Book.  His mission therefore is to develop the entire all round personality of a believer and to make him a true representative of Allah (s.w.t.) on earth.

Now, the nafs has some peculiar habits and qualities.  Because the nafs is the energy produced from working of the human’s physical self, it is inclined to all things material.  At its baser self; the nafs does not care about morals and ethics.  Instead it just wants pleasure, comfort and all the materially attractive things.  But the nafs is one of the ideal dimensions of the personality that Allah (s.w.t.) has Given to man to represent Him on earth; because it is through the nafs we can display the Divine Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.) in our finite way; such as generosity, kindness, compassion and love.  The ruh, which is the other dimension of the human personality, cannot be contaminated.  The ruh is connected to the nafs, thus the nafs can impact the ruh and the ruh can also affect the nafs.  Both entities are energies.  One is energy that came from the Command of God and the other is energy that comes from the working of the physical body.

Now, if the energy that is generated from the physical body is pure energy, it will coordinate positively with the ruh and through this, we can achieve real peace inside.  If however, the nafs emits negative energy; it will be a direct contradiction with the ruh and we will not have peace.  And we see this ever so often; some people have all the wealth and status in the world and still they suffer from a lack of peace.

All of us would like peace and the only way of achieving it is to prune or trim out the unwanted desires and habits from our personalities.  This, however, is an individual matter and no one can do it for us.  This is the real jihad.  Why do we call it a jihadJihad connotes fighting against some evil; thus we are fighting the negative energy that is being generated inside of us.  Possibly, this is why Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is reported to have said, “I have returned from the small jihad to the greater jihad.”

The swahabah enquired, “What is the greater jihad?”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) replied, “Jihad an-nafs.”

To take it a step further; when Allah (s.w.t.) cursed Satan for his disobedience, Satan vowed that he would openly attack the progeny of Adam (a.s.).  So before we came into this world we had an open enemy.  And the base ingredient of losing the battle against Satan is to follow his handiwork and Allah (s.w.t.) Specifies the handiwork of the devil as being intoxicants and games of chance.  And today, society is in a downward spiral because of the prevalence of drugs, alcohol, and greed.  So we see the tangible manifestation of the workings of Satan.

For those who do not succumb to the devil’s handiwork, he uses a different strategy.  He works on our intentions and desires.  Look at how he got Adam (a.s.) and Eve to disobey Allah (s.w.t.) in the Garden of Eden.  Can we imagine how long he would have worked and played on the mind of Eve to get her and, thereafter, Adam (a.s.) to abandon their obedience and obey their baser desire?  The same goes for us.  Every day is a new battle.

We need to humble ourselves and understand that Satan is our open enemy.  Let us sincerely try our best to purify our intentions and desires so that our nafs will only be producing positive energy.  The choice is ours.  Material possessions and acquisitions are nice as it can enable us to have a comfortable stay in this world however one day we will all inevitably leave everything behind.  We must create that right balance that allows us time to work for this world and also the hereafter.  What we are leaving behind must always be secondary; what we are sending in front of us is really important.   Am I sending beautiful, positive things that my Lord will be pleased with or am I sending things that will drag me in the abyss?

Whenever we recap topics like this, it is always nice to reflect on the aswhab asw-swuffah or the founding Sufis as they referred to.  They lived in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) mosque and were only engaged in worldly matters out of necessity.  And later when the Prophet (s.a.w.) left this world, they were the ones that really spread Islam all over the continents.  And if we looked at some of them, they had all the power and status one could want before they went to live with the Prophet (s.a.w.) in his mosque.  Why did they pay so little heed to this world and gave up everything they would have worked for?  It goes to show that not everything can be deduced through scientific reason and logic and material assets.

We beg Allah (s.w.t.) to Forgive us all, to Bless us and to Guide us so that there will only be positivity emanating from our personality, insha’Allah.


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