Imam Ghazali رحمة الله عليه said that the mind/intellect has to be the king in the body, and anger/desires must be the servants. So if for example one’s desires are running wild towards the impermissible, the king must instruct his anger to arrest that desire. One’s intellect must question that if I were to carry out this desire of mine, what would the consequences be? If it’s negative, I cannot continue with this desire, and if it’s positive, then I can carry it out.
If the intellect does not command anger to arrest desire, then the same intellect will be used by desire to commit wrong. Do you not see how a teenager who wishes to go out for some wrongdoing, completely bluffs his father with a clever, concocted story? He is able to do this because the king has been made the slave of the servant.
Our emotions must be controlled by our intellect, and our intellect must be bound by the Shariah. When this principle is firmly in place, our lives will become peaceful and our hearts will become inclined towards dhikrullah. But when there is a weakness in this, then we will become like animals in our behaviour: out of control and unpredictable.
The companion of the Prophet ﷺ, Abu Talha رضي الله عنه, once embarked on a journey, leaving his wife and baby at home. On his way back home, his baby passed away. Let us analyse the situation before continuing; her baby was alive before he left, and now, he has passed away. I ask you, what does her emotions want to do as soon as her husband enters the home? This is her husband: The one who she shares her child with. She can stand strong the whole time but when he comes home, she is just waiting to fall in his arms, looking for strength in him. Ready to break down. But you see she had Imaan, so she controlled it. Her intellect instructed her emotions that no, you will not break down like that because when he returns, whether you tell him immediately or after a few hours, it will not make any difference. The baby has passed away, he has moved on. If you tell him immediately he will not eat, or fulfil his desire out of sadness.
She understood this because she thought logically, deciding with her intellect rather than her emotions. So when he eventually returned home and enquired that how is the child? She simply replied that he is better than before. She proceeded to serve him food and she fulfilled his conjugal rights. After he was at ease, she was still contemplating how to soften the blow for him. So she began by posing a question. She asked him that if someone borrows something from a family, and that family asks for it back, can that person refuse to return it? Her husband replied that no, he cannot refuse like that. She responded saying that our child was a gift from Allah. Now, Allah has taken our child back.
Her composure and mannerisms at such a devastating point in her life, really reflects her high level of piety and trust in Allah. She did not act on her emotions and likewise, we should learn to not act on our emotions or anger either. Control it, do not be controlled by it.
Often, saalikeen remark that I am not in the mood to make dhikr. I feel like I will fall into sin, I am so tempted. My response is that these problems will continuously occur, it is natural. But if we keep the king in charge, we will manage to overcome such temptations. Look at a person who works at a shop or the CEO of a business firm. Some days he will feel energetic at work, other days he will feel lethargic. But can he allow these ‘feelings’ to dictate how much work he completes in the day? No, not really because he has to finish his paperwork or organise his files, so he will exert himself whether he likes it or not. Work is work, it needs to get done. Deen is deen, it needs to be followed.
Hazrat Maulana Maseehullah Khan رحمة الله عليه would say that we undermine the strength of the mind. We undermine the power of it. A hunter who owns a horse and a dog will train them both until they become submissive, attacking and running only at his command. The hunter will control them both and that is how the mind should be. The intellect holds the reins of our emotions in its hands, and they will move in accordance to its instructions.
Sometimes when you go to the park, you come across a man who is taking his dog for a walk, but it looks like the dog is taking him for a walk. The dog is running wild in every direction and he is running behind it, whilst the leash is tangling around his hands. Whereas a trained dog will walk submissively behind its master, even if other dogs bark at it, it will still remain focused.
Likewise, the nafs needs to be trained, our desires needs to be reined in, our anger needs to be put on a leash and our intellect must be in control. Once we master this, only then will we be able to live in harmony with ourselves and those around us, displaying good character in all situations as a believer should.
— Hazrat Ml. Dawood Seedat حفظه الله
(Above is an extract from Hazrat’s Seerah majlis on 23/2/2017. To listen to the full audio, please click here.)