Our biggest enemy is the ego, it appears as greedy, selfish and wretched. It commands evil and is pleasuring-seeking. So, keep it under control and regularly purify it. If you ignore inspecting it then it will rear its ugly head and become rebellious. It must be vigilantly monitored, reformed and changed to the ‘reproaching self’. Gradually the ‘reproaching self’ develops into the ‘content self’. The ‘content self’ is the one, which is at peace, relaxed, serene, calm and ever-ready to do good. Allah will summon it, “Content self, return to your Lord satisfied and enter amongst my devotees and enter my Paradise” (Al-Fajr: 27-30).
Our Creator, Sustainer, Carer and Loving Lord has not left us at the mercy of this doomed self. In fact, He has provided plenty of means to conquer, subdue and have self-mastery over it. However, we must submit to the Lord to gain that mastery. Here are three ways from The Majestic Quran to do this:
1. Live within the boundaries of Allah
This is to impose conditions on yourself, self-censuring and imposing penalties on yourself. This is when you consciously blame yourself for doing something that breaches the Divine boundaries. The opposite of self-censorship is unrestrained and liberal. We must judge our behaviour for its inconsistencies and wrong conduct. It’s expressed by feeling guilty and remorseful either in words or actions.
The spiritual guide Hafiz Abdul Karim said “We are meticulous when it comes to following the advice of worldly experts, for example, if a doctor told you not to eat something during illness you will obey him. If your solicitor advised you to take an action, you will obey. So, why do you not follow the teachings of Messengers who performed miracles? Are they not equal to the doctor’s prescription? You accept one unquestioningly and deny the other? If a child screams there’s a scorpion on your clothes, you will throw them off instantly. What a pity! A child’s word is truer than the Messenger’s? How can you forget the hellfire and the venom of the scorpions in your grave?”
2. Self-examination, contemplation, meditation
This is self-analysis, self-examination, observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes and soul searching. It’s inward-looking to understand feelings and thoughts. The purpose of this is to gain awareness of the inner state. This helps to come out of traps we might have fallen into, an opportunity to analyse the wrong decision made in the past in haste. The Messenger (peace be upon him) praised such introspection: “The intelligent person controls his self and works hard for what is to come after death, whilst the fool follows his passions and is wishful of Allah” (Tirmidhi).
The sense of being answerable, responsible and bound to report keeps us aware and awake to the surrounding tests. This guarantees that we evaluate our performance and behaviour. To be accountable you must:
- know your role and responsibilities
- be honest about yourself and your behaviour
- be diligent
By being accountable you develop trust and people can rely on you. “The time of reckoning has come close, but they are heedless and have turned away” (Anbiya: 17).
A great saint of Punjab gave this advice to his disciples:
“Speak to yourself, don’t you dare disobey the Lord. He is watching you and if you don’t believe that then you are the biggest kafir. If you knowingly disobey your Lord, there is no one more shameless than you”.
“Self, this is not the attitude of the wise. Death awaits you in ambush. Perhaps this is the last day, why don’t you worship? Or are you waiting for that day when your passions will be weak? Let me assure you Allah has not created such a day. You will only get paradise by doing the difficult things and it will not be easy for the self. Every day, you promise to do it tomorrow. Every tomorrow has turned today but you haven’t moved”.
“Unlucky self! Don’t be deceived by the worldly life, and don’t waste valuable time, it won’t be long before you return to Him. Each moment that passes is lost. The Messenger (peace be upon him) advised, ‘appreciate as a Divine gift: Health before sickness, free time before becoming busy, wealth before poverty, youth before old age and life before death’. But I see the love of the world is ever increasing, getting stronger, remember that we are ignorant of Divine rewards and punishments. This is because we are addicted to the pleasures of the world”.
“Self, listen! The day you were born you have been demolishing the wall of your life brick by brick. You are pleased with your wealth increasing but not saddened by the ever-decreasing life span. If age is diminished what use is your wealth? You shy away from the hereafter, yet it is moving towards you! The world has numbed you. Wake up!”