The Soul and its Purification
I Want to Fight My Soul So What Is The Way?

Author: Nawwal Bint Abdullaah
Source: Translator Abu Iyaad

All Praise is due to Allaah the Rabb of all the Worlds and prayers and peace
upon the best creation of Allaah.

To proceed:

We hear many complaints from the people. Most of their complaints are related to their souls,
which command them what is evil. They also complain about the evil of their actions. One of them says:

Indeed I have been put to trial with four, they did not afflict me
Except due to my misfortune and wretchedness
Iblees, the world, the soul and the desire
How will this end when they are my enemies, all of them

So we find some of them saying 'I have tried many times, repeatedly, to turn my soul away from
committing these specific acts of disobedience but my efforts have failed.'

Another one says: 'I tried to get my soul to perform acts of obedience (to Allaah), good and
righteous deeds but I am not able to remain firm upon them, I leave them so quickly.'

And we hear a third one say: 'I have repented from many evil actions and promised myself
that I would not commit them again. However after the passing of time and being occupied
much it did not take long before I returned to them. In fact I fell into others and increased in them.'

If we were to look at the condition of these people we would realise that among the reasons
 for their not being able to dominate and control their souls and not being able to remain firm
upon what they have promised themselves is their lack of striving against their souls. In fact
they have left the fetters and reins for the soul so that it leads them and plays with them
 however it wills. The soul is such that if it is not fought against and controlled it commands
 its possessor to commit evil and obscene deeds. These people, because they have not
 fought against their souls and controlled them in that which Allaah loves and is pleased with,
 are not able to remain constant in their (good) actions. For this reason it is necessary for them
 to control their souls for Allaah's pleasure and His obedience. Not that it should control them
and as a result destroy them

It is vital that a person launches a war against his soul. One which is not haphazard or aimless
 but rather a firm and determined one in which he uses the weapons of faith (eemaan), sincerity
to Allaah (ikhlaas), patience (sabr) and supplication (du'a). He uses them until he is able to
overcome this mischievous enemy which is concealed between the two sides of his body
 [the soul, which commands the evil]. As a result he tames and pacifies it and makes it obedient,
 humble and submissive to the command of Allaah.

For this reason we find that Ibn al-Qayyim (rh) says: 'Since the jihaad against the enemies of
Allaah outwardly (i.e. physically) is a branch of the jihaad of the servant against his own soul for the sake of Allaah...'

The jihaad that is greater and mightier than the jihaad against the disbelievers and pagans is
the jihaad of a person against his own soul for the sake of Allaah, just as the Messenger of
Allaah (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) said: "The Mujaahid is the one who struggles against his
own soul in Allaah's obedience." [Tirmidhee who said it was Hasan Saheeh and Al-Albaanee
said: 'Its isnaad is good']

And when a person is not able to struggle against his own soul and overcome it in that which
 Allaah loves, he will not be able to fight against the external enemy, nor overcome it. How can
he, when he is defeated and weak, both mentally and spiritually, and cannot even gain control of his own feeble soul?

Before entering into the discussion of how to fight against the soul it is necessary to mention a
little section about the soul and its nature. Then we shall mention the cure for the soul and the
way to purify it from its desires and lusts, if Allaah wills.

The Reality of the Soul
The soul continuously calls its owner to transgression, preference of the world, the desires and
 love of the delights and pleasures. But Allaah calls His servant to fear of Him, awe of Him and
forbids the soul from its whim. He has prepared a mighty reward for the one who follows His
command. The Exalted said:

And as for the one fears the standing in front of His Lord and restrains the soul from impure evil
desires and lusts, verily, Paradise will be his abode. [Soorah Naazi'aat 79:40-41]

The soul in its essence calls and commands the evil. Allaah the Exalted said:

Verily the (human) self is inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows His Mercy (upon
whomsoever He wills). Verily, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful. [Soorah Yoosuf 12:53]

The soul was originally created ignorant and given to transgression. Knowledge, guidance
 and righteousness are things that befall it due to inspiration from its Lord and then by the
struggle against it by its owner and his nurturing it and engaging it in jihaad. Allaah the Exalted says:

And those who strive in Our way We shall guide them to our paths and verily Allaah is
with the doers of good (muhsinoon). [Soorah Ankabut 29:69]

Allaah Azzawajall guaranteed the one whom He found trying and striving (against his soul)
 that He will be with him, will help him and will bring into reality his wish or desire (of domination
 over his soul). What then can a man desire after that?

And Ibn al-Qayyim (rh) said: "The travellers to Allaah, in all their different paths and diversity of
their ways are agreed that the soul is a barrier between the heart and Allaah and that it (the heart)
will not come close to Him, the Sublime, or arrive to Him except after killing his soul , abandoning it
by opposing it and being victorious over it"

For this reason, it is obligatory upon us to fight and strive against it in order to travel (by this striving)
 in the straight path and to the clear success which Allaah Azzawajall has prescribed for us and
 which the best of the creation of Allaah, Muhammad (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) has explained to us.

Know that striving against the soul does not occur except by four ways. Whoever follows them
and applies them to his soul will have fought against it and protected it with the help of Allaah.
Ibn al-Qayyim (rh) has mentioned these ways and they are as follows:

Firstly: By holding the soul to account
Secondly: By opposing it and not following its whims and desires
Thirdly: By making it patient in Allaah's obedience
Fourthly: By making it patient in refraining Allaah's disobedience

The First Way: Holding the Soul to Account
The destruction of the soul and the heart and their corruption is due to the neglect of calling
 the soul to account. There are very few amongst Allaah's servants whom you will find calling
their souls to account. One will ask it constantly: What did I intend with that word of mine, or that
advice I gave, or when I called unto Allaah or when I commanded the good and forbade the evil
(on a particular occasion)? Was that word which my tongue engaged upon and which my mouth
uttered a word sincerely for Allaah? Did I desire the Face of Allaah with it? Or did I desire a portion
 of the world with it? What did I desire with that action, whether it was prayer, charity, fasting or
 putting and end to a certain evil? What did I hope for from it and what was the desire behind it?
 Did I hope for reward from Allaah for it and His pleasure, or was my hope for reward and praise
 from Allaah's creation, showing off and seeking to be heard of?

In such a way does he question his soul and hold it to account for every word, movement and
 moment of rest. What did I hope for from it? And what did I desire by it?

May Allaah show mercy to Al-Hasan al-Basree who said: "You will not find a believer except
that he is (constantly) holding his soul to account. What did I intend with that word of mine?
What did I intend with my food? What did I intend with my drink?"

Imaam Ahmad wrote: "The intelligent person is the one who controls his own soul (calls it to account)
and acts (in preparation) for what comes after death...", and what is after death? After death is the barzakh.
 After death there is accountability and punishment. After death are the Scales (upon which the deeds are
 weighed) and the Siraat (the bridge over Hellfire) and then it is either Paradise or Hellfire. So what have
 we prepared for what comes after death?! "...and the incapable person is the one who makes his soul
 follow its whim and has many expectations from Allaah."

Such a person is the one who says 'Allaah will forgive me, Allaah will show mercy upon me', he covets all
these things from Allaah and yet he does not perform the righteous actions and falls into many sins and
 acts of disobedience. Righteous actions are one of the means of entering Paradise. It is not sufficient for
 someone to have expectations (from Allaah) without making some effort and sacrifice and striving with
his soul to perform righteous actions. Allaah Azzawajall frequently links eemaan with righteous actions
and it is also one of the ways of entering into Paradise. We ask Allaah to grant us His Gardens.

Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: "Call your souls to account before you are called to account and weigh
 your souls (i.e. your actions) before you are weighed for it will make the accountability easier for you
 tomorrow if you call your selves to account today" [Reported by Ahmad in his Musnad]

Maalik ibn Deenaar (rh) said:"May Allaah show mercy to a servant who said :'Are you not the perpetrator
 of this action? Are you not the perpetrator of that action? Then he rebukes it, strikes it and confines it to
 the Book of Allaah and is becomes its master and guide.'"