Jihad Against Yourself

Last time we posted the fifth word from the Risale-i Nur describing the significance of the ritual daily prayers and avoiding the great sins. The author gave a short story which revolves around two soldiers and their priorities in life. One of them trusts the sultan and knows that feeding him and providing the necessary means for survival is the sultan’s duty. His own duty as a soldier is to focus on training and war (not food). The other soldier, however, does not trust the sultan. Instead of directing his focus to the duties given to him as a soldier, he continuously thinks about food and worries that he will not be properly fed. At times he leaves the training and war, going to the market and begging for food.

For most people who do not perform their daily prayers, their primary excuse is not having the time in the struggle of earning a livelihood. What these people forget is that we are sent to this world to worship God and refrain from sins. That is the very reason we are here, and earning a livelihood should only be done to carry out that duty and not become the purpose of our lives. Of course, there are many levels to worship and sin. The daily prayers are the best of worship and the great sins are the worst of sins. Performing the daily prayers and refraining from the great sins is the very least we can do as humans to complete the purpose of our lives. Those with a stronger faith do not confine themselves to this alone. In addition to the mandatory acts, they perform the sunnahs. While avoiding what is prohibited, they refrain from what is disliked as well.

The better we perform our duties, the better we complete our purpose of life. However, satan along with our nafs (self) stand as an obstacle before us and we’re commanded to fight against them. Indeed just like a physical war in an actual battlefield, a spiritual war against the devil and the nafs (self) is considered jihad for the sake of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). The Prophet Muhammad (عليه الصلاة و السلام) has stated,


الْمُجَاهِدُ مَنْ جَاهَدَ نَفْسَهُ فِي طَاعَةِ اللهِ


“The mujahid is one who carries out jihad against his self (nafs) in obedience to Allah.” [“mujahid” means the one who carries out jihad]


With the right intention; fighting against one’s desires to break certain habits or to start new ones, carrying out an act of worship despite the odds, or restraining oneself in the state of anger are all types of jihad since the common denominator in all of them is striving to please God. However, jihad against our desires can be very challenging. So what if we continuously lose our battle against satan or the nafs (self)? How do we sharpen our weapons against them? How do we better train ourselves?


Just as an actual war entails training the military, a spiritual war requires training one’s spirituality. The stronger our spirituality, the better we defeat our desires. Now it may come to mind that strengthening ourselves spiritually requires determination and discipline as well, which is the very reason we were not able to reach our goal. However, worship encompasses an endless list of acts. Many do not require the level of determination and discipline that our goal may call for. Even a few moments spent in the remembrance of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) or prayer for the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is worship that strengthens one’s faith.

Leave a Reply