THE STRUGGLE OF THE SOUL (جهاد النفس)


THE STRUGGLE OF THE SOUL (جهاد النفس)


In the Name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.


الإمامُ عليٌّ (عَلَيهِ الّسَلامُ) : أفْضَلُ الجِهادِ جِهادُ النَّفْسِ عنِ الهَوى ، وفِطامُها عَن لَذّاتِ الدُّنيا

Imam Ali (as) said, ‘The best jihad is combatting one’s self against its desires, and weaning it from the pleasures of this world.’

[Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 3232]


The Greater Jihad is a concept that has received little attention in Media and among Muslims. When you mention the word Jihad, it is usually associated with the minor Jihad. Most Muslims and non-Muslims interpret the religion of Islam very superficially. The essence of Jihad is not to defend oneself physically. The essence of Jihad is to defend one’s soul against that which destroys the soul. This is the essence of Jihad.

The successful in Islam is the one who manages to purify his soul. The journey of the soul to God is indeed the greatest journey. Our body may fight for what is good, but this body will return to the dust as your soul returns to God. The body is temporary while the soul lives on.

Islam is not a religion that does not want you to enjoy the good. On the contrary, Islam wants you to enjoy the good within the framework of morality, ethics, chastity and purity. When the ego wins over the soul, even the good can be exploited. In all these contexts, we see that it is important to have a form of muraqabah (observation of the soul) that works properly. You cannot just accept and respond to every whisper, thought or imagination which passes quickly like a cloud. The soul and the intellect must be strong enough to be able to distinguish between that which harm the self and that which benefits the self. As a Muslim, one should always be ready to fight evil. Don’t forget that it starts from within.


عَنِ الشَّيْخِ ثِقَةِ الإِسْلامِ مُحَمَّدٍ بنِ يَعْقُوبَ الكُلَيْنِي، صَاحِبِ الكَافِي، عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنِ النَّوْفَلِي عَنِ السُّكُونِيِّ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِاللهِ، عَلَيْهِ السَّلامُ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ، صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ، بَعَثَ سَرِيَّةُ فَلَمَّا رَجَعُوا قَالَ مَرْحَباً بِقَوْمٍ قَضَوُا الجِهَادَ الأَصْغَرَ وَبَقِيَ عَلَيْهِمُ الجِهَادُ الأَكْبَرُ فَقِيلَ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، مَا الجِهَادُ الأَكْبَرُ؟ قَالَ جِهَادُ النَّفْسِ

Al-Sukuni relates on the authority of Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Sadiq (A): Verily on seeing the returning armies from the battlefront, the Prophet (S) of God said, “Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad, and have yet to perform the major one.” When asked, what is the major jihad? the Prophet replied, “the jihad of the self” (struggle against self).

[Al-Kafi]


 The Jihad of the self is the Jihad of greater importance. This Jihad is superior to being killed in the way of God, since this condition implies overpowering one’s own powers and faculties, and placing them under the yoke of God’s command, and purging the domain of our body of satanic elements and their forces.

Always have it in your mind that you as a Muslim should always belong to the army of goodness. This army of goodness is the army that fights against all forms of evil. The armies of evil work day and night to strengthen their evil. Don’t let the heedlessness win. Be among those who fight for goodness and be among those who fight against evil. People today have a strong passion for evil. Evil is glorified everywhere. Not many in our time glorify goodness. The laziness has caused the good to be buried and hidden while evil is what we see above the ground.

Remember that we live in a time and a world where it is difficult to fight the temptations of society. Those who I think have the most difficult challenges, are without a doubt the religious Muslim youths who really want to be good Muslims in a society that tempts them to do that which is destructive to the soul and to the structure of society. Just reflect on how many youths there are out there who are smoking, drinking, taking drugs, committing crimes, committing fraud, making easy money etc. When the obstacles are severe, remind yourself that the power of God is greater than anything you can imagine.


رسولُ اللهِ صَلَّيَ اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَ آلِهِ: جاهِدوا أنفسَكُم على شَهَواتِكُم ‏تَحِلَّ قلوبَكُم الحِكمَةُ

The Prophet (S) said, ‘Struggle against the desires of your self and wisdom will enter your hearts.’

[Tanbih Al-Khawatir. v. 2, p. 122]


الإمامُ عليٌّ (عَلَيهِ الّسَلامُ) : جاهِدْ شَهْوَتَكَ وغالِبْ غَضَبكَ ‏وخالِفْ سُوءَ عادَتِكَ ، تَزْكُ نَفْسُكَ ، ويَكْمُلْ عَقلُكَ ، وتَسْتَكمِلْ ثَوابَ ربِّكَ

Imam Ali (as) said, ‘Struggle against your lower desires, overcome your anger, oppose your bad habits, purify your self, perfect your intellect, and bring to completion the reward that is with your Lord.’

[Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 4760]


As you fight against evil, your heart will be filled with wisdom and light. It is the wise human being who fights against his desires. It is the wise human being who chooses to place his intellect above his emotions and animal instincts. A wise human being has control over his desires, lusts and negative emotions.

If you have unhealthy habits, you must fight them and replace them with good habits. Through the greater struggle, the intellect will also be strengthened. All positive qualities a human being should aspire for, will blossom from the fitrah of the human being when the human being chooses to hone himself and fight against his desires.

We humans have different types of struggles. Some have problems with anger, some have problems with jealousy, and some have problems with arrogance. The strong one in Islam is not the one who has the capacity to kill people or break them down. No! the strong in Islam is the one who can control his desires when they are at their strongest. Imagine when these evil desires boil around the body and are very intense. Then, how strong isn’t the individual who is willing to fight against these evil desires and control these evil desires with his intellect?


The road is not easy, but do not forget that God is always with you in this difficult journey that only leads to goodness and wisdom. Do not let the temptations of society lure you to evil and its consequences.

Man has a bright light within himself. Man has the remedy within himself to be able to cure his illnesses. Man has the strength within himself to be able to fight evil. May God always be with the one who is ready and willing to fight all forms of evil within himself!


Imam Ali (as) said: “One who struggles against himself so as to obey God, in the eyes of God, his station is that of a pious martyr.” [Al-Amidi, Ghurar ul Hikam wa Durar ul Kalim, hadith # 3546]


Peace and Blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his Holy Progeny (as)


| Amir Zabidi 


Further reading 


https://www.al-islam.org/mizan-al-hikmah-scale-wisdom/greater-jihad

https://www.al-islam.org/forty-hadith-an-exposition-second-edition-imam-khomeini/first-hadith-jihad-self

https://www.al-islam.org/articles/merits-soul-struggle-against-self-jihad-al-nafs


| THE STRUGGLE OF THE SOUL (جهاد النفس)

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