It has been narrated from Anas b. Malik that, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) say in one of his speeches and words of admonition, ‘May the mercy of Allah be upon that person who sends forth (for himself) something good; and who gives charity from the middle path (not too much or too little); and who speaks the truth; and who is the owner (in control) of his own desires and is not held captive by them; and who controls his own soul so that it does not take charge over him.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
In this tradition, the Noble Prophet sent mercy upon a person who possesses the following five characteristics:
1. He is not waiting for others to send things ahead for him (in Paradise); rather, he himself sends things forward for his own soul, and he tried to make his home in the next life a habitable place.
2. He treads upon the middle path (in giving charity), meaning he is not extravagant, nor is he miserly when he gives out of his wealth. Thus, he is sure to follow the moderate course – he does not give out so much that he himself becomes poor and without anything, nor does he give out so little that the goodness which he has been given does not reach other people.
It has been mentioned in the Qur’an that: “Do not make your hand tied to your neck (do not be miserly), nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (nor be too generous) such that you become blameworthy and destitute.” (17:29)
In another verse it states: “Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not stingy, but hold a just (balance) between these (extremes).” (25:67)
3. A person’s tongue is not polluted with lies and speaking false things.
All of these three things listed so far are good; however, the emphasis is more on the fourth and fifth characteristics:
4 and 5. What is important here is that a person captures his own soul and enslaves it – one controls and keeps reins over it, not that one is made the slave of his own soul. The complete worth of a person is in this point that he becomes the leader of his own soul and not the slave of it.
For example, when a person becomes angry, is one’s own tongue in his control or not? Or when a person has the flames of jealousy burning up inside of him, does his true faith (Eimaan) put out such a fire? In summary, a person has been placed at the intersection of two roads: one road which leads towards Allah and Paradise, while the other path – which is not limited to one particular path, but rather has many other ways branching off of it – is going towards the Hellfire.
To discuss this issue is very easy, but to put these things into practice is extremely difficult.
Sometimes, our leaders who are traversing the path of closeness to Allah (Sair wa Suluk) use the following expression, “He is a person who has done a lot of work (on his soul).” By this phrase, they mean that the person has fought against his own soul so much and has fallen down to the ground and gotten back up again and has continued to fight against his soul until the point that he becomes triumphant and has taken control of it, for it takes self-discipline to win control over the soul. It also entails having complete knowledge of the meaning of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Ahlul Bayt in order to continue on this path.
Each and every day, a person who wants to win control over his soul must read the Qur’an, the commentaries of the Qur’an, and the traditions, and transfer this knowledge into his mind and take energy and power from these things.
There are some people who say that, “We know that such-and-such act is not right; however, when we are about to perform this act, we lose control over ourselves and we don’t know why?!”
This is the meaning of being a servant. A person knows why (he is doing an act), but he does not know how to stop it because he is not the one in control of his own self. It is similar to a driver who is going down a steep hill and his car picks up speed, and he says, “I have lost control of my car”, and then his car smashes on the side of a mountain or he ends up in the ditch and is killed.
Another example is that of a person at the top of a mountain who is going down at a fast speed with nothing in front of him to control his descent and speed. However, when he reaches the bottom of the mountain, then his speed will eventually slow down and he will come to a rest.
Our souls work in the same manner!
How painful it is for a person that he knows (right from wrong); however, he does not have the ability to prevent himself (from sinning). It is our belief that for that time period when one does not know and commits sins, it is possible that he may not have a great responsibility (in the presence of Allah) for what he is performing. But what about for one who knows the intensity of sins and their punishments?
These are all warnings that we must be careful of our actions and that we must send forth good deeds for our own benefit. However, if we fall prey to performing wicked deeds and are not successful in repenting to Allah, and we leave this world in the state (of being sinners), then we must be ready and prepared to face the consequences.
After we die, the ink in the pen of responsibility will dry up, and at this time, a person will not be able to ask for forgiveness, nor send any good deeds for his use in the next world. Thus we must act now – before it is too late!