19 — FIRST VOLUME, 52nd LETTER
This letter, written to Sayyid Shaikh Ferîd, explains the wickedness of the nafs-i ammâra, the illness peculiar to it, and its medicine:
We have been honoured with reading your blessed letter, which you mercifully offered to your inferiors who pray for you. May Allâhu ta’âlâ, for the sake of your great ancestor (Muhammad) ‘’alaihis-salâm’, increase your rewards, heighten your degree, enlarge your chest, which is a source of knowledge, and facilitate your work! May Allâhu ta’âlâ keep our body and soul in His way and forgive (the sins of) those who say “Âmîn” after our prayer! Âmîn. You complain about the existence of evil-spirited people who want to sow discord and arouse instigation among your officials. My dear son! Man’s nafs-i ammâra has the ambition to seize a post, to come to the fore. Its only desire is to be the chief so that everybody will bow their heads before it. It does not like to need anybody or to be under someone else’s command. These desires of the nafs mean that it wants to be a god, an idol, so that everybody will worship it. It wants to be a partner with Allâhu ta’âlâ. Even more, the nafs is so base that it does not like partnership but wants to be the only ruler, commander, with everybody under its command. Allâhu ta’âlâ declares in a hadîth-i qudsî: “Bear hostility against your nafs! For, your nafs is My enemy.” This means to say that to strengthen the nafs, to gratify its desires to obtain property, positions, ranks, to be superior to everybody and to abhor everybody, would mean to help and strengthen this enemy of Allâhu ta’âlâ; it should be realized what a terrible, horrible felony this is. Allâhu ta’âlâ declares in a hadîth-i qudsî: “Greatness, superiority are peculiar to Me. He who wants to be My partner in these two is My great enemy. Without pitying him, I shall fling him into Hell fire.” [As is seen, such worldly wealths as property, rank, post, commandership and leadership should be desired not for following the nafs but for doing and practising Allah’s commands, for serving people and Muslims. It will be a great act of worship to desire them with this intention and to do them.]
The reason why Allâhu ta’âlâ is hostile against the world, why the world is so base, is because it causes the nafs to get its desires and because it strengthens the nafs. He who helps the nafs, which is Allah’s enemy, will certainly be Allah’s enemy. Our Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ praised being poor, for poverty will not allow the nafs to obtain its desires. It will not listen to it. It will take its conceit out of it. The sending of Prophets, Islam’s commands and prohibitions are all intended to break the nafs, to crush it, and to prevent its excessive activities. The more Islam is obeyed, the fewer desires will the nafs have. It is for this reason that doing one command of Islam is more effective in annihilating the desires of the nafs than thousands of years of riyâzat and mujâhada done on one’s own.
[Riyâzat means not to do the desires of the nafs. Mujâhada means to struggle against the nafs, to do what the nafs dislikes.] In fact, those riyâzats and mujâhadas that are not suitable with Islam augment the desires of the nafs. They cause it to become inordinate. The Brahmin priests in India and the magicians called jukiyya went quite far into riyâzat and mujâhada; yet all their endeavours proved useless. In fact, they made their nafs even more thoroughgoing and outrageous.
[Irreligious people in India call the highest of the four spiritual classes Brahmin, which means the chief of the Hindu priestly caste of Brahmin. Jûkî is the name given to the dervishes of Hindu disbelievers.]
For example, paying one cent of zakât, which Islam commands, to people prescribed by Islam, destroys the nafs very much more than giving thousands of gold coins as alms or by doing favours on one’s own. On the day of Bayram (’Iyd), eating and drinking instead of fasting, because Islam commands us to do so, is more useful than fasting for years. Performing the two rak’ats of morning prayer in jamâ’at is better than performing supererogatory prayers all night till morning and then (falling asleep and) not performing morning prayer in jamâ’at.
In short, unless the nafs is purified and wakes up from the dream of being a chief or being superior, it is impossible to escape perdition. Before going to endless death, it is necessary to consider saving the nafs from this illness. The blessed word Lâ ilâha il-l-Allah dispels all the mendacious idols inside and outside of man, and so it is the most useful, the most effective medicine for purifying the nafs. Great men of Tasawwuf chose this word for the purification of the nafs. Translation of a Persian couplet:
Unless the road is cleaned with the broom of Lâ,
You will not attain the palace of il-l-Allah!
If the nafs goes astray and becomes obstinate, it is necessary to refresh the îmân by expressing this word. Our Prophet ‘sall- Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ stated: “Renew your îmân by saying Lâ ilâha il-l-Allah!” It is always necessary to say it, for the nafs-i ammâre is always filthy. The following hadîth-i-sherîf states the virtues of this beautiful word of tawhîd: “If they put the earth and the heaven on one scale of the balance and this word of tawhîd on the other scale, certainly the scale on which this word is laid will weigh heavier.”
Salâms to those who are on the right way and to those who follow the footsteps of Muhammad Mustafâ ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’!