HAKEEM TIRMIDHI (d. 320 H) ON JIHAD AL-NAFS
[FIGHTING THE EGO]
Translated from his book 'Aadaab al -muridin' [Rules of Conduct for
the Seekers of God] Ed. Abdulfattah Abdullah Baraka, Cairo: Matba`at as-sa`adat, 1976.
I. Concerning the Murid (seeker) and What Helps or Hurts Him in His
Journey to God Most High, and What His First Step Ought to Be
There are two types of murid:
Those that seek God's Grace by worshipping
Him, fulfilling His commands and avoiding His prohibitions, then turning to perform as many voluntary good works as they can,
seeking through them salvation from the fire and attainment of the rewards He has prepared for His workers.
God in worship, fulfill His commands and avoid His prohibitions, then turn to examine their inner self, and they find in their
hearts many diseases, such as love of the world (dunya), lust for power, honor, and greatness, greed, the furnace of desires
(shahawat), the chatter of vain passions (hawa), ambition, envy, love of praise and compliments--all of them worldly bonds
blinding the heart.
Such a heart can never find the way to God bearing those stains, because
in loving the world he parts with His Lord. He is in love with something God has removed far from Himself and despised. To
ask for greatness is to compare oneself with God Most High; in the furnace of desires one faces the greatest seductions; and
in the chatter of vain passions lies tyranny itself and aversion to the rights of God the Lord of Might and Majesty. That
heart is veiled from wisdom and from the understanding of how God disposes His affairs.
Such a person is a prisoner of his ego (asir an-nafs). He performs
obligations while attached to the world, he avoids prohibitions while attached to the world, and he generally worships God
at his own convenience. This is a servant who must try to found upon sincerity every matter, every action, and every moment,
by working on his ego.
Whoso desires the reward of God the Lord of Might and Majesty, let
him keep to this battle, and let him be sincere in every matter in order to purify his worship.
For whoever seeks God Most High, must take pains and ask for sincerity
in the secret of his heart until the door is opened for him. When the door opens and the gift is given, at that time the cost
of his journey will be repaid in full. He will be strengthened and continue on his way, and the further he goes the more his
gift is increased for him and he continues even further. This does not stop until he reaches God through his heart (hatta
yasil ilallah qalban). At that time God appoints him according to his degree and he becomes a Friend of God (waliyyullah).
He has made his heart stand still in the presence of God wherefore he received his ap- pointment. From that point he proceeds
to works with a heart strong with God's strength and rich with God's wealth, with a faultless ego free from sins and devils.
He has parted ways with vain passions and the pursuit of honor and he has purified himself.
We have dealt with these topics in two books:
The Training of
the Ego (Riyadat an-nafs) and The Practice of the Saints (Sirat al-awliya'), in which are found, with God's permission, cures
for all who aspire to knowledge in this matter.