Nafs Ki Islah: On Disciplining the Soul

[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed  in Karachi on Friday, September 14, 2012]

1. Mukhalafatun Nafs — Opposing the desires

Eat less: all extra food you eat goes to your nafs.

2. Mujahidatun Nafs — Striving and exerting yourself to do good

i. Do more acts of worship. Put the burden of worship on nafs. Besides the daily prayers, pray nafl, tahajjud, salat al hajat, salat al ishraq etc. Keep nafl fasts.

ii. Get involved in Halal recreation. If you can’t keep busy in worship all the time, then keep yourself occupied in some halal recreation. Everyone sins in their free time. If you know you sin when you are alone, on vacations, on weekends, at night, then be honest with yourself and take away that free time from yourself. Keep yourself busy.

iii. Do more Khidmat. If you can’t keep busy in worship then be of service to others. Serve Allah (swt) and deen, serve the people. If someone says to me that I cannot do acts of worship, nor can I serve others, then my reply to them is that you are setting yourself up to serve your nafs then.

3. Making du’a

Without the special Mercy of Allah (swt) no one is able to purify their nafs. The only way we will ever ever be able to do the tazkiyah is with the Mercy of Allah (swt). That’s the secret of khidmet. Allah’s (swt) special Mercy comes on those who serve others. But even while doing khidmet you should still make du’a.

Three more ways to discipline the souls [as mentioned by Hadrat Ashraf Ali thanvi (rh)]:

4. Suhbat-e-Shaykh, Ittaba-e-shaykh — Getting the company of a spiritual mentor

Some people think there is no need for a shaykh. For such people I have three proofs from Qur’an aur Sunnah.

i. First answer from Qur’an:

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَكُونُواْ مَعَ ٱلصَّـٰدِقِينَ
O you who believe, fear Allah, and be in the company of the truthful. [9:119]

ii. Second answer from Hadith:

A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends. [Sunan Abu Dawud]

That is, a person will be on the religion of their best friend, their closest friend. So if you desire Nafs al-Mutmainah, then be in the company of those who have this Nafs al-mutmainah.

iii. Third answer from logic:

If a person says I don’t need a guide because I have a map. But had the person taken the guide won’t he have reached easily? Guide in Arabic is a Murshid. Only the guided can guide. We have the map. We have Qur’an and hadith. That’s not the problem. We need to be pushed and reminded according to the Qur’an and sunnah.

iv. Fourth answer from Hadith:

The Religion is naseeha (sincerity and sincere advice). [Sahih Muslim]

Some people will be counseling, and some would get counseled. That person who has disciplined their own nafs can guide you to do it. This is an ilm transferred from generation to generation. You also have to accept tarbiyat (disciplining) by the counselor. Ragra (strenuous disciplining), daant (reprimanding) is a part of counsel too.

5. Learning from enemies and opponents

Allah (swt) has sent these people in your life so make sure you learn from them as well. Your friends and loved ones maybe blinded to your faults, but an ill-wisher will not shy away from pointing out any shortcomings they notice in you.

6. Learning from the mistakes of others

Learn from those who did not purify their nafs and as a result were humiliated by Allah (swt) in this world. Rather than feeling superior, one must think that is a strayed person whom Allah (swt) has exposed, and I am a strayed person whom Allah (swt) has not exposed yet. Allah (swt) may not always hide your sins so be vary. Even if we leave unscathed from this world, Allah (swt) will suspend His sattari on that day (on The Day of Judgment). A potential zillat (humiliation) is always there on the Day of Judgment for all of us.


That person is also a mujahid who strives against his soul/self in obedience to God, the Mighty and Majestic. [At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban, Tabarani, Hakim]

That is, that person is also a mujahid who gives their entire life (salik) to do jihad against their nafs. It’s not something to be done occasionally. We did it for the whole month of Ramadan. But look at your own situation now — where do you stand? This is not something to be done occasionally, on Hajj, or Umrah, itikaf. This is the struggle, the mujahida of a lifetime. You should dedicate your lives for this struggle.

What is the beginning point of this struggle? Love for Allah (swt).

What is the limit, the goal, the destination? Allah (swt) says in Quran:

إِنۡ أَوۡلِيَآؤُهُ ۥۤ إِلَّا ٱلۡمُتَّقُونَ
Its (competent) custodians are none but the God-fearing [8:34]

First the mujahida is to attain taqwah. Then the mujahida is to sustain that taqwah. Make the intention to strive to discipline the nafs. Whether or not one reaches that goal is another matter, our job is to spend our lives struggling to get this taqwah.


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