In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Imaam Al-Aajurree [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
“It is obligated on the one who hears this from Allaah [i.e. the affairs stated about the nafs in the Qur’an and Sunnah] that he is more careful (or cautious) about his nafs than an enemy that wants to kill him, take his wealth or violate his honour. If someone says, ‘Why do you obligate – on me – this precaution about the Nafs until you place it in a situation that is more severe than an enemy whose enmity is certainly very manifest?’ It should then be said to him, ‘The enemy of yours who wants to kill you, or wants to take your wealth or violate your honour, if he overcomes you with what he does to you, then indeed Allaah will expiate some of your sins and raise your status, but this will not be the case with the nafs because if the nafs overcomes you by way of that which you desire – that which you have been forbidden, then this contains destruction for you in this Dunya and the Aakhirah- disgrace and severe punishment in the Dunyah, an evil state in the sight of Allaah and destination in the Aakhirah. Therefore the sensible one – may Allaah have mercy upon him – compels or obligates caution on his Nafs and strives against it in a manner more severe than striving against an enemy who wants to take his wealth and his life. So, he strives against his nafs in times of anger and in times of happiness. This is how our prophet disciplined us in various hadeeth, saying: The Mujaahid is the one who strives against his Nafs in obedience to Allaah – The Mighty and Majestic'”. [End of quote]
When a person hears the statement, “Be more careful (or cautious) about your Nafs than an enemy who wants to kill you”, he may be amazed as to how can be the case?! Say to him, “If someone killed you or took your wealth (unjustly), Allaah will expiate some of your sins, because have you not heard the hadeeth regarding the Muflis?!
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ أَتَدْرُونَ مَا الْمُفْلِسُ قَالُوا الْمُفْلِسُ فِينَا مَنْ لَا دِرْهَمَ لَهُ وَلَا مَتَاعَ فَقَالَ إِنَّ الْمُفْلِسَ مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتِي يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِصَلَاةٍ وَصِيَامٍ وَزَكَاةٍ وَيَأْتِي قَدْ شَتَمَ هَذَا وَقَذَفَ هَذَا وَأَكَلَ مَالَ هَذَا وَسَفَكَ دَمَ هَذَا وَضَرَبَ هَذَا فَيُعْطَى هَذَا مِنْ حَسَنَاتِهِ وَهَذَا مِنْ حَسَنَاتِهِ فَإِنْ فَنِيَتْ حَسَنَاتُهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُقْضَى مَا عَلَيْهِ أُخِذَ مِنْ خَطَايَاهُمْ فَطُرِحَتْ عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ طُرِحَ فِي النَّارِ
Abu Huraira [may Allaah be pleased with him] reported that the Messenger of Allaah [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “Do you know who is the Muflis (bankrupt one) is?” They said, “The one without money or goods is bankrupt”. The Prophet said, “Verily, the bankrupt of my Ummah are those who come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers, fasting, and charity, but also insulted this one, slandered that one, ate the wealth of this one, shed the blood of that one, and hit this one. So, this one will be given from his good deeds and hat one is given from his deeds. And if his good deeds run out before justice is fulfilled, then their sins will be cast upon him and he will be thrown into the Hellfire”. [Ṣaḥeeh Muslim 2581]
So, you will take from his deeds and if he has no more deeds to give away, your sins will be given you him and he’ll be in the fire, but as for when our own nafs overcome us by way of that which is haraam, then we gain nothing. [Ref 1]
So, Imaam Al-Aajurree [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: One should strive against his Nafs in times of happiness as well as when he is happy. There is a supplication in which the suppliant says: [وأسألُك كلمةَ الحقِّ في الرِّضَا والغضب – I ask You (O Allaah) to make me true in speech in times of pleasure and anger]. [Ref 2] The one who does not utter except the truth during anger and pleasure, then this is a proof of his strong Eemaan and that indeed he is in control of his Nafs. [Ref 3]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
There are two (types) of strengths within the soul: The strength of abstinence and the strength of courage. The reality of patience is that one makes the strength of courageousness a means of action in what benefits him and the strength of abstinence a means of action in refraining from what is harmful to him. Among the people, there is one whose patience in carrying out what benefits him and being firm upon it is stronger than his patience in refraining from what is harmful to him; so he exercises patience in facing difficulty whilst carrying out acts of obedience, but he does not exercise patience in refraining from urges towards what he is forbidden. And among them, there is one whose patience in refraining from things that are in opposition to the religion is stronger than his patience in carrying out acts of obedience, and among them there is one who does not exercise patience in both affairs. The best of people are those who fulfil both affairs. Many people patiently bear the hardship of praying Tahajjud during hot and cold nights, and the difficulty in fasting; but they do not exercise patience in refraining from looking at forbidden things. Many people exercise patience in refraining from looking at the forbidden things and inclination towards [forbidden] images, but they do not exercise patience in commanding good and forbidding evil..[Ref 4]
What to Remind The Nafs When It Inclines Towards Evil
Imaam Abdul Ghaniy Al-Maqdisi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] stated in his book At-tawwaabeen that a man [may Allaah have mercy upon him] once came to Ibraaheem Bin Adham [may Allaah have mercy upon him] and said, “O Abu Ishaaq! Indeed I have transgressed against my Nafs [through evil deeds], so present to me that which will be a deterrent for my nafs and will save [or rescue] my heart”. So, Ibraaheem said to him: “If you accept five affairs and fulfil them, neither will you be harmed due to sinning nor will the enjoyment [or delight from it] bring you destruction. The man said, “Mention them to me O Abu Ishaaq”.
Ibraaheem said: “The first affair is that when you want to disobey Allaah – The Mighty and Majestic- do not eat His provision”. The man said, “Where would I eat from when it is case that all that is in the earth is from His provision?” He said, “O you! Is it right that you eat His provision and disobey him?” The man said, “No; mention the second affair to me”.
Ibraaheem said, “If you want to disobey Allaah, do not live anywhere in Allaah’s earth”. The man said, “This is greater than the first affair! When it is the case that the east, the west and whatever is between them belongs to Him, then where would I live?” Ibraaheem said to him, “O you! Is it right that you eat His provision and live on his earth, yet you disobey him?” The man said, “No; mention the third affair”.
Ibraaheem said, “If you want to disobey Him whilst you are being provided from His provision and living on his earth, then do so in a place where He cannot see you”. The man said, “How can that be when it is the case that He knows everything that is hidden”. Ibraaheem said, “O you! Is it right that you eat his provision, live on his earth and you disobey him whilst he sees you and what you do?” The man said, “No; mention the fourth affair”.
Ibraaheem said, “When the angel of death comes to take your soul, tell him, ‘Delay its departure until I perform sincere repentance and perform righteous deeds for the sake of Allaah’”. The man said, “He (the angel) will not accept that from me”. Ibraaheem said, “O you! When it is the case that you cannot repel death until you repent and you know that there is no delay when it comes to you, then how do you hope to escape?” The man said, “Mention the fifth affair”.
Ibraaheem said to him, “When the Zabaaniyah [i.e. guardians of hell] come to you on yawmul qiyaamah to take you to the fire, do not go with them”. The man said, “Neither will they leave me nor accept that from me”. Ibraaheem said to him, “So, how do you hope for safety then?” The man said, “O Ibraaheem! This is enough! This is enough! I seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent to Him.” [Ref 5]
Supplication of The Morning [Before Sunrise] and Evening [Before Sunset]
يَا حَيُّ يَا قَيُّومُ بِرَحْمَتِكَ أَسْتَغيثُ أَصْلِحْ لِي شَأْنِيَ كُلَّهُ وَلاَ تَكِلْنِي إِلَى نَفْسِي طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ
O Ever Living! O The Self Subsisting, Upon Whom Everything Depends! By Your mercy I seek assistance; rectify for me all of my affairs and do not leave me to myself, even for the blink of an eye. [As-Saheehah Number 227]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: This is where those forsaken have been forsaken and those granted success [well-being, guidance etc] have been granted well-being [guidance etc]. The forsaken one is veiled from his reality- he forgets himself; he forgets his poverty [in the presence of Allaah]; his need of [Allaah] and his [state of absolute dependence on his Lord for all his means of subsistence], therefore he transgresses all bounds [in crimes, sins, disbelief etc], becomes insolent and thus deserves a wretched end. [Allaah (The Most High)] said:
كَلَّا إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَيَطْغَىٰ
أَن رَّآهُ اسْتَغْنَىٰ
Nay! Verily, man does transgress all bounds (in disbelief and evil deed, etc.). Because he considers himself self-sufficient. [Surah Al-Alaq. Aayaat 6-7]
And Allaah said:
فَأَمَّا مَنْ أَعْطَىٰ وَاتَّقَىٰ
وَأَمَّا مَن بَخِلَ وَاسْتَغْنَىٰ
As for him who gives (in charity) and keeps his duty to Allah and fears Him; And believes in Al-Husna; We will make smooth for him the path of ease (goodness). But he who is greedy miser and thinks himself self-sufficient; And gives the lie to Al-Husna; We will make smooth for him the path for evil. [Surah Al-Layl. Aayaat 5-10]
The most perfect [person] is that one who is more perfect in his servitude [to Allaah], the greatest in his acknowledgement of his poverty, dependence and neediness [in the presence of Allaah]. He never [considers himself] self-sufficient in the presence of his Lord in the twinkling of an eye. And that is why among the supplications of the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] is that he is used to say:
[أَصْلِحْ ِلي شَأِني كُلَّهُ ، وَلاَ تَِكلْنِي إِلَى َنفْسِي َطرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ وَلاَ إِلَى أَحَدٍ مِنْ خَلْقِكَ – rectify for me all of my affairs and neither leave me to myself, even for the blink of an eye, nor to anyone among your creation]. And he [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] used to supplicate saying: [يَا مُقَلِّبَ ٱلْقُلُوبَ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِكَ – O Turner of the hearts! Keep my heart firm upon Your Religion].
He knew [with absolute certainty] that his heart is in the control of Allaah’s [The Mighty and Majestic] Hand and he has no control over it, and that Allaah alternates it [i.e. alternates it from one state to another] how He pleases. How can this not be the case (i.e. his absolute certainty about this affair) when it is the fact that he recites the statement of Allaah: [وَلَوْلَا أَن ثَبَّتْنَاكَ لَقَدْ كِدتَّ تَرْكَنُ إِلَيْهِمْ شَيْئًا قَلِيلًا – And had We not made you stand firm; you would nearly have inclined to them a little. [Surah Al-Israa, Ayah 74] [Ref 6]
Imaam Ash-Shanqeeti [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: This noble ayah [i.e. Al-Israa Ayah 74] makes explicitly clear the Messenger’s innocence from inclining towards the disbelievers a little let alone inclining towards them. That is because [لَوْلاَ (i.e. And had it not )] necessitates negation of the occurrence of something, so the phrase ‘you would have nearly inclined’ is negated by [لَوْلاَ ] due to Allaah’s bestowal of firmness to the noblest person amongst His creation [i.e. Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)]. So it is established with certainty that he never inclined towards them the least let alone inclining towards them. [Ref 7]
Imaam Muhammad Ibn Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [may Allaah have mercy upon him] stated: And when it is the case that the [firmness of the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] is dependent on Allaah’s bestowal of that firmness], then how about us- the ones weak in their Eemaan and certainty, whilst we are openly exposed to affairs of falsehood that are made to resemble the truth and lowly desires. Therefore, we are in great danger and we are obligated to ask Allaah for firmness upon the truth and that He does not cause our hearts to deviate [i.e. due to our own faults, sins and transgressions].
[رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغۡ قُلُوبَنَا بَعۡدَ إِذۡ هَدَيۡتَنَا وَهَبۡ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحۡمَةًۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡوَهَّابُ – Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower] [Ref 8]
Sayyid Al-Istighfaar: The Master of The Supplications of Seeking Forgiveness – By Imaam Abdul Azeez Bin Baaz and Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon both of them]
Ref 1: Sharh Adabun Nufoos. Lesson 1. By Shaikh Abdur Razzaaq Al-Badr (hafidhahullaah).
Ref 2: Source: Part of a supplication narrated by Ammaar Bin Yaasir (may Allaah be pleased with him]. Reported by An-Nasaa’ee Number 1305 & found in Saheeh Al-Jaami Number 1301]
Ref 3: Fiqhul Ad’iyah Wal-Adkaar’ parts 3 & 4’ page 167
Ref 4: An Excerpt from Uddatus Saabireen. page 37. Slightly paraphrased
Ref 5: At-taleeq Alaa Bawaa’thil Khilaas Min Adh-Dhunoob. Lesson 1. By Shaikh Abdur Razzaaq Al-Badr (hafidhahullaah). See here: https://al-badr.net/sub/369]
[Ref 6: An Excerpt from ‘Tareequl Hijratayn pages 25-26’. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 7: An Excerpt from ‘Adwaa Al-Bayaan. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 8: An Excerpt from ‘Sharh Mumti 5/388. slightly paraphrased]