Yasmin Mogahed on Controlling Our Inner Self (P.1)

Ramadan Countdown: Preparing for the Best Month of the Year
By Reading Islam Staff

If you are far from that source of water are you ever going to quench your thirst?

We are going to talk about a very important topic; the month of Ramadan and how to really prepare ourselves for Ramadan in the context of training our nafs (inner self)...

To begin the topic of training the nafs and the topic of how we should enter Ramadan, we have to really start from the beginning, and the beginning goes back to the essential question of what is our purpose?

What is our purpose of existence?

This is a question that has been asked by people, philosophers basically, from the beginning of time; Why are we here? What is our purpose? Why were we put in this world? And what we are intended to accomplish?

Essence of Worship

While this is an issue that has been discussed by many philosophers., Allah, exalted is He, has actually given us the answer to this question, a very clear answer. He tells us in the Quran:

{I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.} (Adh-Dhariyat 51; 5)

So Allah explains in this ayah that He has not created jinn and human beings except for one single purpose: to fulfill worship to Allah. So the reason why we exist, the reason why we were created is for this one singular purpose.

The construction of this ayah is important as you notice the ayah begins with a negation, it says that Allah doesn’t just say that He created mankind for this purpose. But rather Allah says that He has NOT created mankind for any other purpose. So you begin by negating any other purpose for which we were created. And then Allah, exalted is He, says this one single purpose.

worship means living every second of our life in this universe in such a way that our intent is in accordance with the intent of our creator

In order to understand this ayah we really have to be able to define the concept of ubudiyah ‘worshipping’. We have heard probably this ayah many times, but the question is what really is  the meaning of worshipping.

When Allah says that our purpose is worship, this worship can be defined as living our life in such a way; living in this universe and every second of our life in such a way that our intent is in accordance with the intent of our Creator. So what that means is that my focus is the same as what God wants it to be, my intent and my goals are as God wants them to be: there is an accordance between my intent and that of my Creator.

When I live my life so that internally and externally we have the same focus, and that’s my goal, which is the same as what God’s goal is for me, then that is worship.

When you really actualize worshipping, the consequence of that proper worshipping when I’m in line with my Creator is something extremely profound; and that is salam (peace). When I am in a state of worshipping God, the consequence is that I attain peace. And that peace begins inside of myself, and when I have that peace inside of myself, then I can actualize peace outside of myself.

If you look at one of the attributes of Allah it is Al-Salam: Allah is The Peace. And in a hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, one of his du’a he would say, ‘Allah You are the source of peace and from You comes peace”

In Search of Inner Peace

Now if you think about this concept of God being the source of peace, what that means is that there is no other way to get peace except by seeking this source. Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

{And Allah summons to the abode of peace, and leads whom He will to a straight path.} (Yunus 10: 25)

Allah tells us that He is calling us to the home of Salam (peace). If you think for a second about this metaphor. Imagine that someone is in the middle of a desert and they are desperate for water and there is only one source of water in that desert. Now think about what would happen if you are far away from that source of water. If you are far from that source of water, are you ever going to quench your thirst? And if you far from that source of water, are you ever going to be able to give water to others?

if we are not near God Who is the source of peace we can never ever attain peace

The only way you can quench that thirst is by being near to that source. So by being nearer than I am to that source of water, the more that I can quench my thirst, and the more that I can give to others. But if we are not close to the source of water we can never quench our thirst.

Similarly, if we are not near God, who is the source of peace, we can never ever attain peace. And the nearer I am to that source, the more I will have of it. So the nearer I am to the source of water the more water I will have, and the nearer I am to the source of peace the more peace that I will have.

And again it’s important to understand obviously in this life this is not a physical nearness. Rather, this is a nearness of our heart, of our soul to Allah, exalted is He... And that heart, not the physical organ, is the part of the human being that connects to God in this life before the next life. In order to attain this nearness to the source of water; to the source of peace, there are two things which we must do; there are two requirements in order to attain nearness to this source of peace. And Allah (SWT) tells us about those in the following ayah:

{He it is Who has sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow, and to teach them the Scripture and wisdom, though heretofore they were indeed in error manifest.} (Al-Jumu’ah 62: 2)

God is saying here that it is He who has sent among the unlettered an apostle from among themselves, the Prophet, peace be upon him, for a certain purpose; to rehearse on them His signs, and in order to purify them and to instruct them in scripture and in manifest wisdom.

If you notice here there are two components mentioned in this ayah. The first is knowledge. Allah (SWT) says that He sent the messenger in order to give then knowledge and in order to purify them, and that before that they were in manifest error. And so the two components in order to be able to attain the peace of Allah (SWT) are knowledge and purification, purification of the inner self.

So if we are going to begin to undertake this journey to the source of peace, we have to undergo this process of tazkiyah, the purification of the soul...

(To be continued…)

Listen to Part 1 of sister Yasmin’s talk

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Related Links:
Fasting: A Habit or an Act of Spiritual Devotion?
Worship: The Essence of True Humility
The Only Shelter in the Storm
God’s Name As-Salam (The Source of Peace)
Faith is Human Nature: What Does This Really Mean?

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