A summary of the last talk was that Allah has placed within the human being 4 strengths/powers from which all character comes from:
(1) desire (shahwa) – the trait of desire which is with a human being from his childhood, for when he is a baby and he is hungry, this moves him to cry. If this quwwa (strength/drive) of desire is brought into control/tamed then from it becomes from the usul/foundations of good character, which is ‘iffa (Virtue) and if a person delves in excess in desire or loses it completely, then this will result in bad characteristics such as loss of ambition, laziness, inaction, etc.
(2) anger – this when controlled/trained then results in another usul of good character which is courage – and from this comes forth other good characteristics. If a person delves in excess or does not control his anger then this results in bad characteristics such as dealing badly with people/shouting/losing control, etc. And if a person loses this drive/strength completely then this will result in an usul of bad character which is cowardice, and from this springs many bad characteristics such as miserliness and envy.
These two drives/strengths are from the innate nature of man. We see with a child that has a desire for sweets and other such things, that he desires all these different things, even if they are bad for him. If the parents tell him they will ruin his teeth, he still wants them. And we can see the gap between what a child wants and what a child may actually need. This child, it is you and I too. Except that as we got older our desires changed/developed.- An older man may desire other things such as relations between a man and woman, prestige amongst people, etc. [...]
What is the lesson in this? The lesson is that, not everything we want is good for us, and for this reason we have sharia law to show us what is good for us.
A child may want to eat sweets at night, and the parent doesn’t let him- so what does the child do? It screams, and screams. And this is what our nafs is like. However, we have to control it and tame it slowly. And like the child who realises that even if it screams night after night, it won’t get what it wants, your nafs will slowly quieten. And what happens when your nafs quietens? It will listen. Is it possible for you to scream and listen? No. So if you quieten then you will listen. If a child is screaming and you tell it, “if you do this, I will get you this as a prize”, then he won’t listen because he is screaming! But if you leave him to quieten and then tell him about the prize, then he will become happy. In the same way your nafs, when it quietens, it will hear the prize, not from a mother or father, but from the King of Kings.
“As for the one who reverenced the majesty of his Lord, and enjoined the self from sinful lusts. Paradise will be the abode.” (Quran, 79:40-41)
That’s your prize! Paradise.
“(To the righteous soul will be said:) “O soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord,- well pleased and well-pleasing! Enter you, then, among My servants! Enter you My Paradise” (Quran, 89:28..)
What was said before Paradise in the latter verse, was “among my servants” (ibaady) – because this is the greater prize. […]
If the soul was to taste the sweetness of servanthood to Allah, then it would submit to His will.
“Have Taqwa of God, and God will teach you” (Quran, 2: 282)
The scholars have said here that the knowledge (the teaching) here, isn’t the knowledge we read from papers, which all kinds of people can listen to. The fruits of this knowledge is that you practice it, and by practicing it, Allah opens in your heart a light by which you see, knowledge from Allah, by which you understand. We are not talking here about inspiration related to revelation, for this ended with the passing of the Prophet peace be upon him, so do not get confused with this. What we are talking about here is the understanding and sweetness that Allah grants you.
This is for people who tame their nafs/souls. And we will talk more about the fruit of this, which is ‘iffa (virtue) in coming lessons.
The strength/power of anger comes a bit later in a human being than desire. It comes perhaps when a child is about 5. When he is reaches 7, and he is not allowed something, he gets angry. If a child hits his head on a pillar, then cries, then the parent comes and asks what’s wrong, and he tells him, and the parent says “Okay then, hit the pillar.” And the child will hit the pillar, even though this will not harm it! But it makes him feel good to vent his anger.
This anger grows/develops in a person in two ways (a) his getting older and his exposure to people (b) (this is more dangerous) a person attaining more power; whether it be physical strength, or more wealth, or power. It these things develop in a person, then his anger levels will increase.
You see that a child is between 14-16: he has some skill or strength, he walks in the street with a sort of swagger, and looks down on people he deems have less strength. But if he goes past someone older, perhaps stronger, a better player, then he will contain himself slightly. In the former state, the teen thinks that he has some sort of capacity/capabiliy/skill/ability, and this confidence makes him feel big. However, the latter state, when he felt small in front of the ‘more capable’, then this is the state that the human being should always remind himself of, that no matter what strength or power he reaches, he is before Allah, the Most Powerful.
Remember Allah’s power over you.
The way to deal with bringing desire under control is to remind yourselves of the promises of Allah in the Quran and Sunnah. Here your religion and knowledge will help you, as you will know about the hellfire and paradise, and make the right choice.
However, to tame and control anger you need to remind yourself of a few realities. If you want to harm people with your physical strength, then remind yourself that these limbs that you have will be eaten by worms after death, and if not that then you will become old and they will become weak. This is not your strength! What is it by which you want to harm people with your anger? Is it your wealth? Qarun had more wealth than you, and it did not benefit him in his most crucial moments. By what then? Property? Some narrations said that Nimrod owned the whole earth, and then he was killed by something insignificant! Your reality is that you weak! But if with this weakness you turned to Allah, and then Allah will grant you true strength! That is for His sake. Your wealth will be righteous and pure, and He will grant you strength for Him. Khaled bin Walid was the “Sword of Allah!”
The way to control anger is by use of your aql (intellect) – so that you may reflect and contemplate. This has been mentioned many times in the Quran, calling one to reflect on the heavens and earth.
A few questions arise here.
Some people say that if khalq cannot be changed (the physical) then why do you call for us to change our Khuluq (character) –
So many of the questions that come to scholars today are about the permissibility of nose jobs, and injecting the lips so they become red, and putting I don’t know what in their eyes! (Plastic surgery). People have become pre-occupied with beautifying their physical bodies! When Allah swore by everything in existence that the reality is “Successful is the one who purifies it!” (in all the verses prior to this verse, Allah swears by everything He has created- Surah al Shams) – So if character/the internal/khuluq could not be changed then Allah would not have established the sharia, and would not have established sciences within it related to the betterment of character.
Another question that we will end with- is that people may question that you are saying that good character stems from strengths/powers innate in man, such as desire and anger, so if they are innate then how can we rid ourselves of them? The point is that we are not talking about completely ridding ourselves of them. Our religion does not permit celibacy. The purpose is to refine them, tame them, training them- this is what religion came with! It is about conquering and not eliminating.