The Carnal Soul
Your self (nafs) is the mother of all idols:
the material idol is a snake, but the spiritual idol is a dragon.
‘Tis easy to break an idol, very easy;
to regard the self as easy to subdue is folly, folly.
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“Some have thought that by fasting the strength necessary for purification is attained. On the contrary, in Sufism abstinence alone is not enough to purify the self. It is true that asceticism and abstinence give one a certain spiritual state, and in this state one’s perception may be clarified. But if the self is likened to a dragon that by fasting becomes powerless, it is certain that when the fast is broken and enough food is eaten, the dragon will revive, and stronger than ever will go about attempting to fulfill its desires.”
Wisdom from our Teachers reminds us that it is foolish to think we should destroy our Nafs (the Self or Ego), completely. This approach denys the rights our body has on us.
The primal urges of hunger, lust, anger; all of these are necessities inherent to our nature as human beings, and are useful, albeit in a restrained capacity. Uncaged, they swiftly bring us to a degenerate state.
In this respect, the Nafs can aptly be likened to a dragon. One which must be subdued instead of slayed. Don’t obliterate it. Simply take its teeth. A physical fast will weaken it, true. But for how long? The heart must fast as well and not only from dawn till dusk. How?
Remembrance of Allah shocks the self, the menacing nafs, into obedience. These easily learned forms of dhikr will do wonders:
Wa La Ilaha Illallah
Wa La Hawla wa La Quwwata illa billa hi’l Alliyul Azeem”
“Glory be to Allah
Praise be to Allah
There is No God but Allah
Allah is the Supreme
Truly there is no might or power except in Allah”
And, Insh’Allah, with consistency, the dragon becomes as tame as a kitten.
I pray that Allah gives us the guidance to have the strength of consistency in our lives. Ameen.