English translation of Maktubat Imam Rabbani (selective 100) | Mujaddid Alf sani | Sheikh Ahmad sirhindi
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This letter, written to Sayyid Shaikh Farid, explains the evil of the nafs-i ammara, the illness peculiar to it, and its medicine.
We have been honored with reading your blessed letter, which you mercifully offered to your inferiors who pray for you. May Allahu ta'ala, for the sake of your great ancestor (Muhammad) "alaihis-salam", increase your rewards, exalt your degree, enlarge your chest, which is a source of knowledge, and facilitate your work! May Allahu ta'ala keep our body and soul in his way and forgive those who say "Amin" after our prayer! Amin. You complain about the existence of evil-spirited people who want to sow discord and arouse instigation among your officials. My dear son! Man's nafs-i ammara has the ambition to seize a post, to come to the fore. Its only desire is to be the chief so that everybody will bow his head in front of it. It does not like to need anybody or to be under someone else's command. These desires of the nafs mean that it wants to be a god, an idol, so that everybody will worship it. It wants to be a partner with Allahu ta'ala. Even more, the nafs is so base that it does not like partnership but wants to be the only ruler, commander, with everybody under its command. Allahu ta'ala declares in a hadith al- qudsi: "Bear hostility against your nafs! For, your nafs is My enemy." This means to say that to strengthen the nafs, to gratify its desires to obtain property, positions, ranks, to be superior to everybody and to abhor everybody, would mean to help and strengthen this enemy of Allahu ta'ala; it should be realized what a terrible, horrible felony this is. Allahu ta'ala declares in a hadith al-qudsi: "Greatness, superiority are peculiar to Me. He who wants to be My partner in these two is My great enemy. Without pitying him, I shall fling him into Hell fire." [As is seen, such worldly wealth as property, rank, post, commandership and leadership should be desired not for following the nafs but for doing and practicing Allah's commands, for serving people and Muslims. It will be a great act of worship to desire them with this intention and to do them.]
The reason why Allahu ta'ala is hostile against the world, why the world is so base, is because it causes the nafs to get its desires and because it strengthens the nafs. He who helps the nafs, which is Allah's enemy, will certainly be Allah's enemy. Our Prophet praised being poor, for poverty does not allow the nafs to obtain its desires. It does not listen to it. It takes its conceit out of it. The sending of Prophets, the Shariat's commands and prohibitions are all intended to break, to crush the nafs, and to prevent its excessive activities. The more the Shariat is obeyed, the fewer desires the nafs will have. It is for this reason that doing one command of the Shariat is more effective in annihilating the desires of the nafs than thousands of years of riyazat and mujahada done on one's own.
[Riyazat means not to do the desires of the nafs. Mujahada means to struggle against the nafs, to do what the nafs dislikes]. In fact, those riyazats and mujahadas that are not suitable with the Shariat augment the desires of the nafs. They cause it to become inordinate. The priests of Brahmin in India and the magicians called jukiyya went quite far into riyazat and mujahada; yet all these endeavors proved useless. In fact, they made their nafs even more thoroughgoing and outrageous.
[Irreligious people in India call the highest of the four spiritual classes Brahmin, which means the chief of the Hindu priestly caste of Brahmin. Juki is the name given to the Darwishes of Hindu disbelievers.]
For example, giving one cent of zakat, which the Shariat commands, to people prescribed by the Shariat, destroys the nafs very much more than giving thousands of gold coins as alms or by doing favors on one's own. On the day of Bayram (Iyd), eating and drinking instead of fasting, because the Shariat commands us to do so, is more useful than fasting for years. Performing the two rakats of morning prayer in jamaat is better than performing supererogatory prayers all night till morning and then (falling asleep and) not performing morning prayer in jamaat.
In short, unless the nafs is purified and wakes up from the dream of being a chief, being superior, it is impossible to escape perdition. Before going to endless death, it is necessary to consider saving the nafs from this illness. The blessed word La ilaha il-l-Allah dispels all the mendacious idols inside and outside of man, and so it is the most useful, the most effective medicine for purifying the nafs. Great men of tasawwuf chose this word for the purification of the nafs.
Translation of a Persian couplet:
Unless the road is cleaned with the broom of La,
You will not attain to the palace of il-l-Allah!