Monthly Archives: March 2016

‘Disciplining The Soul’ reflections from the work of Ibn al-Jawzi

12914752_10153282617236504_129960154_oIbn al-Jawzi (d. 597 AH) may Allah have mercy on him, was born approximately in the year 509 AH took a keen interest in learning about Islam from a very young age and began preaching as a child. He dedicated his life to learning and became a very respected and honoured scholar. He really had great wisdom with the matters of mankind, our psychology and behaviours. He became famous for his works around the matters of the soul with many of his books and works helping mankind to learn to cope with our hearts whims and desires. This article is a reflection of the chapters within ‘Disciplining the Soul’ and not only provides us with understanding the battle that goes on with our mind and desires but also provides us with tips and solutions to win the fight.

“Every breath we take is taking us closer to death. The time we spend in this world is short, the time we are held in our graves is long, and the punshment for following our lowly desires is calamitous”  (Ibn al-Jawzi)

Chapter 1: The Mind Ibn al-Jawzi describes the mind as a leader. The intellect is a gift from Allah. Through our mind we recognise Allah, we came to believe in Him and our faith in Him, His Laws and our norms and values are withheld in the mind. It is what makes us human and differentiates us from the animal world. It is our mind that, when healthy, governs the limbs and the heart and prevents us from giving in to our lusts and whims.

Chapter 2: Hawwa (desires) refers to the part of the self that pushes the person to obtain what it wants. This can sometimes be a good thing – as we crave ‘the good things in life’ that are healthy in both worldy terms, like good nourishment and sleep, or spiritually, like prayer and strengthening family ties. When Hawwa can be problematic for us is when we crave the things that are not good for us in both worldly and spiritual matters. I’m sure most of us can relate to this and the struggle we can have with our hawwa to give up the bad stuff and strive towards the things we know are good for us but might be difficult for us to do. A battle of the desires. “Exhibiting patience in the face of vice is a merit of the inner self by which a person endures both goodness and evil. Therefore, whoever lacks patience and allows his Hawwa to lead his mind has then made the follower be followed and the led a leader (page 23)”.  The sad part of this is – the Hawwa promises us that the bad things we seek will lead us to happiness, fulfillment, contentment – but the truth is that never is the reality. What is even sadder is many of us fail to give up on that promise, forever chasing it with false hope, while knowing deep in the mind that its a lie.

“When a person does not accept the judgement of his mind and abides by the judgement of his Hawwa, the beastly animal becomes better than him” (page 24)

Ibn al-Jawzi explains that the battle we have with our Hawwa and when we restrain it is actually easier than the unhappiness and regret that follows after those time we give in to it. The person of sound mind understands that the short struggle of fighting the cravings is far easier than the habitual loss of control that comes about by giving in to desires. “Being accustomed to something allows it to become an addiction; such as those addicted to sexual intercourse or alcohol (page24)”. 

ibn al-Jawzi recommends that one of the most effective ways for us to reject our Hawwa is to take time to deeply reflect upon oneself. By engaging the mind (our leader) we come to realise that we were not created by Allah to follow our Hawwa and we take an intelligent decision to try to restrain ourselves and go back into battle.

Chapter 3: Perspective of Mind Vs Perspective of Hawwa 

  • Hawwa calls to pleasure without contemplating consequences
  • We know if we follow Hawwa it will bring about more regret than pleasure, but we follow it anyway.
  • The mind knows we will stop getting  pleasure from the good things, but we follow hawwa anyway.
  • Hawwa stops us from using the mind to think until habits are formed and addictions develop.

The solution is to engage the mind. “He should be patient upon what the mind orders him to do, because knowing the excellence of the mind is enough for him to favour it (page 27).

Ibn al-Jawzi’s tips for the mind Vs desires struggle:

  •  Thinking about the consequences of giving in to desires, using the mind, is often enough to stop us in our tracks and not go ahead with chasing our desires.  This is certainly a technique taught to addicts in recovery in many clinics and rehabilitation centres internationally.
  • To reflect on what his desire is calling him to. And to admit that his satisfaction is never fulfilled by giving in to the urge. I’m sure many of us can relate to this constant need to try to satisfy the urge yet never truly able to.
  • Remember that by giving in to desire we find ourselves disgraced and humiliated and in deep regret.
  • To realise that by not giving in to Hawwa and overcoming it we will feel honoured, elated and victorious. Oh how wonderful is that feeling of happiness when we do not give in to our cravings!
  • To know that the more we stop giving in to our desires the stronger we become.

In the remaining chapters ibn al-Jazwi begins to outline the different kinds of addictions or behaviours in which following our desires might manifest. As we begin to recover from following our Hawwa perhaps we begin to become more aware of some of those secondary addictions or behaviours that have become part of our nature. As Muslims we must continue to use our mind to overcome these as much as we can.

Chapter 4: Averting Passionate Love (‘Ishq) This chapter focusses on how to prevent and cure excessive or unlawful sexual desire. The first step ibn al-Jawzi explains is to lower the gaze, stating that prevention is far better than cure and if one can begin to implement the lowering of the gaze, protecting our eyes from looking at the forbidden fruit we will refrain from eating it. He makes a rather scary warning about how if we leave ourselves indulging in Ishq it can lead to a very strong possibility that the cure will not benefit us.

“Therefore whoever wants the cure should hasten to it before this illness becomes deeply rooted and that is by blocking the means leading to it (lowering the gaze and by enduring it with patience” (page 28).

Modern research shows us that sexual deviants today rarely are fully rehabilitated, many of them failing to obtain parole and staying on the sex offenders list until they die. With sexual deviance, it rarely happens overnight, but through the continued exposure to forbidden sexual cues and experiences the person becomes sicker and sicker until often, as al-Jawzi states, the cure is of no benefit to them. So let us take heed and always protect others from the potential harm of sexual deviants.

Tips for overcoming ‘Ishq, sexual/love obsessions:

  • “Indeed self-restraint and strength are the best of cures (page29)”.
  • Aid self-restraint by increasing fear of Allah
  • Think of the humilation and regret following giving in to ‘Ishq
  • Think of how once you have indulged your sexual desire your lack of interest in the person/object of desire afterwards.
  • Think of the flaws and bad points of the one you desire
  • Think of the good qualities within our own selves and also in other people who might be able to help us get out of our obsession and meet our needs some other way. (e.g very often when we seek out sexual pleasure it is because of an unmet need such as a desire for friendship or to feel loved and worthy)
  • Strive to love Allah over all else and prefer His love over the love and affection of His Creation.

Chapter 5: Averting Gluttony (Sharah) focusses on 4 ways in which greed can manifest itself in an addictive way;

1) Excessive eating:

“Know that the wise must eat to survive, on the other hand the ignorant would rather live to eat. (page 32)”

Ibn al-Jawzi explains that Sharah can lead to us over-eating in a way that is not pleasing to Allah. He explains that the tips provided in the previous chapters are enough to engage the mind in order to overcome the hawwa. What he means is, it is the same process by which we become excessive in our eating as it is excessive in the other areas of our lives. It stems from the same place – obeying hawwa and disobeying the intellect. This is the case with all actions that are displeasing to Allah. We obey our own lusts in replacement of fighting them in order to obey Allah.

2) Excessive Sexual Appetite

ibn al-Jawzi states that there is a danger in having too much sexual intercourse, even if it is carried out in a halal way with a legitimate spouse. He warns against the physical damage that can be caused by excessive overuse of the sperm channels, putting strain on other major organs. He also warns of spiritual harm to the person stating “it becomes a habit that is done for the mere sake of satisfaction and enjoyment then one is practically competing with animals (page 33). As addicts in recovery, we understand nature of our obsessive behaviours and how over indulging in one area of our life can mean there is a significant loss to other areas, putting things out of balance wholistically.

 3) Hoarding Wealth

Ibn al-Jawzi warns of the obsession around hoarding money beyond what is necessary to sustain oneself and our family. He makes mention of the kinds of behaviours that can stem from this habit – working unneccessarily to obtain more wealth. What we might call ‘Workaholism’ today.  He refers to some classical poetry:

“And he who spends days in hoarding money

for fear of poverty, then what he did is poverty”

Tips for overcoming greed of wealth and workaholism from ibn al-Jawzi:

  1. Think of those who die having never benefitted from their wealth
  2. Understand, that which we seek, we never actually use for our or anyone else’s benefit.
  3. Reflect on the purpose of gaining wealth i.e to balance oneself yet hoarding and over-striving for it only puts us at a loss and not a gain.
  4. Consult with ones mind “whoever is overpowered by the disease of hoarding money will perish in the desert of greed and the only inheritor will be the mount and packsaddle (page 32)”.

4) Extravagance

Extravagance can manifest itself in different ways – often through overspending on our homes, clothes, ‘fine branded horses’ in other words todays luxury cars. Overspending is addictive in nature and stems from following the hawwa. We give in to the desire for new or numerous possessions until we often find ourselves in great loss or debts. As we get caught up in ‘shopping addiction’ it can be hard for us to stop.

Tips for overcoming greed in extravagance:

1) To think about how we will be accountable to Allah for our earning and spending of every dime, dirham, cent, penny, euro, dollar etc.

2) To know that Allah does not love over-spending

3) To consider those who are below us but also those role models of our past, who may have had wealth but chose not to use it to decorate their own selves, homes etc.

4) To think of the reward for holding back and to think of the ultimate reward in Paradise, where we shall wear clothes we cannot imagine and live in palaces our eyes have never seen.

“This world is a bridge and a bridge should not be taken as a home Thus whoever fails to be aware of this knowledge will be afflicted with the disease of sharah, and should cure himself by seeking knowledge, and contemplating the biographies of the wise scholars. (page 34)”

Chapter six: Refusing to take a Position of Authority in this World

“Know that the inner self loves superiority over its kind (page 35)”. However, there are many risks involved in taking a position of leadership. We have all heard about career ladders and progressive careers and heirarchy. In some of us, their is a disease that is constant in seeking out higher status. It means that when a position of authority is reached, the soul ought to be happy and satisfied with that, however it begins to crave a position even higher and is therefore not content. This type of person puts themselves and risk of falling into sin. Perhaps we have all met people like this, who do anything, at any cost, no matter who they hurt in the process to try and get to the top. A soul like this must break free from this thoughtless obsession with achieving by reflecting on his condition and how he is behaving at what cost.

Abu Darr approached the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, and asked “Oh Messenger of Allah! Wont you make me responsible for anything?” so he touched my shoulder with his hand and said, “O Abu Darr! You are weak, it is a trust, on the Day of Judgement it is a humilation, a regret, except for whoever took it rightfully and fulfilled his obligations towards it.” (MUSLIM)

 Chapter Seven: Averting Stinginess

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr narrated that the Prophet, pbuh, said, “Be cautious of parsimony (reluctance to spend), for it has destroyed those who lived before you. It ordered them to sever the ties of kinship and they did, it ordered them to be stingy and they became stingy, it ordered them to indulge in dissoluteness (indulging in their immoral appetites) and they did.” (Abu Dawood)

He also said, “Two traits are not combined in a believer, stinginess and bad morals” (Tirmidhi)

We see from these two ahadith that stinginess and bad morals are linked together. Each stems from the same place, as have all in the above mentioned chapters – obedience to hawwa.

Ibn al-Jawzi states the cure for stinginess as follows; “.. is to contemplate, as one will then realise that poor people are also ones brothers, he is favoured over them and that they were made in need of him; therefore one should thank the One Who blessed him by consoling his brethren. One should also reflect on the honour of generoisity; for people should know that yuo enslave free people when you do them a favour and that evil people will ravage your state when you are stingy. such a person should be certain that everything will remain in his hands obnoxiously. Therefore, it would be better leave it before it leaves him (page39)”

Chapter Eight: Prohibition on Squandering

A person who spends their money quickly and without much thought is a spendthrift. This demonstrates that a person is not using their intellect or having a purpose to their management of money. Allah warns us against this in Surah al -Isra: “But spend not wastefully your welath in the manner of a spendthrift”. Ibn al-Jawzi suggests the cure for such habits is to reflect on the consequences of living in regret once the money has gone and being in the state of loss.

Chapter Nine: Elucidation on the Amount of Earnings and Expenditure 

This chapter almost sums up the previous above chapters regarding earning and spending. “The earnings of a wise person should be more than what he actually needs, and he should keep some savings aside to recompense for his loss lest a misfortune occur…for this is what the mind that reflets on consequences, commands, and what Hawwa that onbserves only the present state, is not concerned with (page 41)”

In other words, all the desire care about is the here and now – indulging and satisfying the immediate cravings. The mind thinks long term and weighs up benefit and loss with wisdom. A reflective mind will not succumb to the desires.

Chapter Ten: Dispraise of Lying 

Hawaa calls to lying and when we are stuck in our addiction very few of us will protect our addiction without lying to our loved-ones about what we are doing. “The cure of this disease is to know Allah’s punishment for a liar and to be certain that wen a person continuously lies he will eventually be exposed one day, then he will be disrespected in such a way that cannot be averted; his shame will increase, ear people’s disprespect to the extent that they will not believe him even when he is truthful, and their disturst will exceed beyond what he lied about (page 42).” Sound familiar? Addiction takes us to this place where no one trust us or believes us and the habit to lie takes over even when we could be truthful. Lies in themselves become an addiction and make us become a dishonest person. It is a habit that must be broken as we enter recovery.  ‘Abdullah narrates that the Prophet, pbuh, said:

“A man keeps telling lies and endeavors in telling them until he is written a liar with Allah” (Muslim)”

Chapter Eleven: Averting Envy

Envy is to wish that the blessing of a person be removed. It “causes insomnia, malnutrition, paleness, mood swings and continuous depression (page 44).” As addicts sometimes we allow ourselves to feel as though Allah has dealt us a rough hand and feel like everyone else is more blessed than we are. If we allow it, envy just keeps us stuck in our self-loathing and hatred for others too. It keeps us stuck in our addiction and eats away at us giving us justifications to keep on using/acting out our addictive behaviours. We must overcome this in order to secure our recovery. Thinking of those who are below us as well as loving for our brothers and sisters in Islam, what we love for ourselves will help cure us of this disease.

 Chapter Twelve: Averting Resentfulness

In many recovery rehabilitation programmes in the West, we often hear that resentments are the number one cause of relapse. When we allow the traces of other peoples bad deeds to remain in our hearts it can cause us to feel bitter and spiteful. These resentments can eat away at us if we are not careful. Ibn al Jazzi tells us that the cure is to try to forgive. This is not always easy so he suggests we try different ways to acheive the forgiveness of those who have hurt us or done us wrong. “First is to know the reward of someone who forgives, second to that the One Who made one be in the position of the forgiver and the other in the position of the one who errs (page 50).” We must always remember that any hurt that comes to us is destined by Allah, to test our patience or to wipe away a sin we may have done. Cleansing our hearts of resentments will help us feel freer and will aid our recovery.

Chapter Thirteen: Averting Anger

Allah placed us with the ability to become angry to keep us defended from harm. When it becomes problematic is when anger becomes excessive “as it disturbs ones soundness, makes one unbalanced and immoderate, such a person starts making wrong decisions which may even affect he who is angry more than the person he is angry at (page 52).” Anger stems from the desires, usually associated with arrogance, and causes a heat within the body that can lead to wrong actions. The one who becomes angry is best off removing themselves from the situation and reflecting on the excellence of controlling the anger for Allah praises such a person who does. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, also praised the one who represses anger:

“The strong  is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself when angry.” (Bukhari)

 Anger can lead to harming ourselves or others. Throw drugs or excessive cravings into this mix and you have a lethal cocktail. It is so important in our recovery that we learn to manage our anger in order to prevent relapse. Angry thoughts often lead to giving ourselves unreasonable excuses as to why it is okay to go and relapse.

Chapter Fourteen: Averting Arrogance

“Arrogance is glorifying one’s self and disdaining others (page 56)”. Although, most addicts spend a lot of time feeling guilty and lowly compared to non-addicts there are times when our addiction can lead us to feel higher or mightier than others. Sometimes we compare ourselves to other addicts who we think are worse than us and consider ourselves “not as bad as them” in order to safeguard our addiction and think we are controlling it. Sometimes we look upon others as more sinful than ourselves in order to think of ourselves as less sinful and justify our actions and tell ourselves “Im not hurting anyone”. To cure this thinking we need to honestly reflect on the flaws of the self. We must also fear the words of the Prophet, pbuh, when he said in a hadith narrated in Muslim:

“Whoever has an atoms weight of arrogance in his heart shall not enter Paradise.”

 Arrogance is also to reject the truth. As addicts we know we are doing wrong and going against Allah’s Pleasure, and often hurting our loved-ones, yet we continue to deny the truth and lie against it in order to stay in our sinfulness. We often do not admit our flaws, make excuses and lie to our own selves about where we are going wrong. The first step to changing this, is to start being honest with our own selves before Allah.

Chapter Fifteen: Averting Conceit

Conceit is an excessively favourable opinion of one’s own ability. How many addicts tell themselves “I can stop any time I want” or “I can handle just one drink, I will stop there”? This conceit stops us from entering recovery because it stops us from admitting our own flaws and incapabilities. Ibn al Jawzi tells us a wise man once said “A mans conceit of himself is an enemy of his mental capacities, and how harmful is conceit to the merits (page 61).

Chapter Sixteen: Averting Riyya (Insincerity and showing off)

The opposite of Riyya is to do all actions seeking the Pleasure of Allah and none else. As addicts in recovery we must acknowledge that all good is from Allah, every day we are clean is because of Allah and every good action we do is because Allah helped us to do that, inspiring our hearts. We do not seek the pleasure of people. We must get our intention correct as to why we are trying to come out of our addiction, because if we are doing it solely for ourselves or to make a human being happy then we are seeking pleasure from the creation and not the Creator.

“The general cure for this disease is to know Allah truly. For whoever knows Him, will make all his actions sincerely for Him, and would not see anyone besides Him (page 62)”. Coming out of addiction is not an easy thing and can be easy to fall into Riyya if we are not careful. Therefore, we must remain humble and remember that it is Allah Who helped us to get into recovery and every day we stay clean is because of Him pushing us along.

Chapter Seventeen: Averting Excessive Thinking

Or ‘Stinking Thinking’ as we might hear in the rooms of addiction recovery groups. “Know that thinking is needed…however if thinking is about that which is not fruitful it will be harmful, and if it is excessive it will exhaust the body (page 67).” 

Chapter Eighteen: Averting Excessive Sadness

Grieving over this worldly life causes us to forget the fear of the Day of Judgement. We should feel sad about what we are grieving but at the same time already make a decision on how we can rectify things. A Muslim is forward thinking. As addicts, by dwelling on the past we often get stuck in our addiction and keep relapsing. By focussing on the future and having an action plan we prevent relapse. “The best of cures for sadness is to know that one cannot bring back what he has missed, rather by feeling sad he is adding another misfortune to the already existing misfortune, ultimately making two misfortunes (page 70)” It is Hawaa that calls to sadness, not the mind, because the mind does not call to that which is not useful. The cure for sadness is to use the mind to busy ourselves in distraction and to try our best to be positive and push the sadness away. By dwelling on sadness, we cannot move forwards.

Chapter Nineteen: Averting Ghamm (grief) and Hamm (Worry)

“Ghamm occurs due to a misfortune that happened in the past while hamm occurs due to an expected misfortune in the future.”

Grieving over past sins will benefit us as we shall be rewarded  for that regret. As addicts it can lead to harm if we wallow in it. Worry should instead be redirected towards worrying about how we can achieve good deeds in order to receive reward with Allah. However, grieving for something we have lost from this world will not benefit us. We must know that it may never be returned, accept this and move on or else it will begin to harm us. Recovery from addiction is about forward thinking, not dwelling on the things we cannot change and having hope for the future.

Chapter Twenty: Averting Excessive Fear and Cautiousness of Death

“Fear and cautiousness occur in matters related to the future. A resolute person is he who prepares for what he fears before it befalls him, and avoids excessive fear of what must inevitably befall him, because (in this case) his fear does not benefit him (page 76).” Excessive fear can prevent us from taking action. It can cause us to become stuck. How many of us were afraid to come into recovery because change was scary. Or perhaps we were afraid to go to the mosque. Fear can prevent us from doing good deeds. Excessive fear can cause all kind of obsessive behaviours and even stop us from doing all the good things we want to do.

Section One: Excessive Fear

As addicts we may often feel “what’s the point of change? I’m doomed for The Fire anyway.” This kind of thinking is a negative way to be. Sometimes this can make us think about death negatively in an excessive way or can cause us to deny it all together. Recovery is about finding that balance. To think of death often enough to motivate us to change but not excessively to make us too afraid to do good deeds.

“If the thought of leaving this life saddens the heart, then the cure is to know that this world is not a dwelling of satisfaction, rather its pleasure and satisfaction is in departing it, therefore this is not something that one should compete to possess (page 77)”. What ibn al Jawzi means here is that the sadness is leaving the good deeds behind. Recovery is about wanting to leave this world with good deeds on our backs and striving to wipe out all the bad things we have done.

Section Two: Curing the Whispers

Shaitan, the accursed devil and his army, throughout our lives whisper to us to tempt us to indulge in those things that displeases Allah. And at the time of death he never gives up, trying to make us turn away from Allah. “As for the cure for these trials we should first mention that whoever is mindful of Allah while in good health, Allah will protect him when he is ill, and whoever observes Allah in his thoughts, Allah will protect hi when he moves his bodily parts (page 79).” As we come into recovery from our addiction, the more we turn to Allah and remember Him often, the more He will help us in overcoming the temptations of the shaitan. Ibn Abbas narrated from the Prophet, pbuh,  that he said;

“Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. Know Him while in prosperity, He will know you in distress”. (Tirmidhi)

Chapter Twenty One: Averting Excessive Happiness

“Happiness should be moderate so that it equals sorrow (page 84).” Being overly happy and spending too much time in laughter leads to heedlessness, recklessness and forgetfulness of Allah and our duty to Him. We need to strike a balance as with all matters in recovery because “Surely Allah does not like the exultant (triumphantly happy)” (Quran Surah Qasas 28:76)

Chapter Twenty Two: Averting Laziness 

One of the most common supplications of the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, was “I seek refuge in Allah from grief (ghamm) and distress , old age and laziness” (Bukhari). In recovery, it is important that we take a proactive approach because laziness can be very harmful to us and can cause relapse. (click here for article on relapse prevention around laziness)

Ibn al Jawzi teaches us that the cure for laziness is to reflect on the regret we shall feel when we miss our goal. The worst of punishment is to see the fruits of others labour while we have nothing. In recovery terms we need to consider that without motivation, striving and hard work we shall remain in loss and regret while others get clean and serene and achieve contentment.

Chapter Twenty Three: Identifying One’s Flaws

A successful recovery begins with us admitting to ourselves that we have flaws within ourselves that we need to rectify. Without this acceptance we cannot change nor can we get out of our addiction. It is only natural that the self will struggle with this (addict or non addict we all have lusts and desires to overcome). Ibn al Jawzi suggests some solutions when we cannot always achieve this by our own selves. One of those is such; “A person should take the wisest, most prudent of all the people he knows as a friend, as him to tell him about his flaws and inform him that in doing so he does him a favour. Then, when this friend tells him about them he should rejoice in that, and should not show any sadness, so as not to encourage his friend to stop telling him about them. He should inform his friend ‘If you hide anything from me I will consider you a cheater'” (page 90).

Chapter Twenty Four: Motivating a Low Endeavor 

What this chapter is discussing is how to bring the motivation level up. Something we need lots of in recovery, as discussed in Chapter 22. The solution is to look up to those with high motivation. In recovery, it is important that we surround ourselves with people who are highly motivated towards pleasing Allah. We must attach ourselves and find a sense of belonging with people who have a sense of purpose. Perhaps a charity organisation or an educational class or circle in the mosque.

Chapter Twenty Five: Self Discipline

“The basic principle is that mankind’s nature, disposition is sound and healthy. Whereas disease and defects are extraneous (not part of the natural self), every child is born upon the natural fitra (pure state)”.

Ibn al Jawzi states that within every human being there exits three capacities: a lingual capacity, a lustful capacity and an anger capacity. Allah has favoured us over the animals by way of our lingual self and by which He also shared a common characteristic with the angels. The wise person

“should make this self capacity predominant over the other two capacities. so that it becomes like a rider, his body becomes like a horse due to his elevation, s he be able to lead it where ever he likes and he should be able to slaughter it if he so wishes (page 95).”

Ibn al Jawzi states that “the lingual capacity should be dominant over the other two capacities, using and ceasing to use them as it likes and whoever is like that truly deserves to be called a human being (page 96).” Just as Plato also said “A true human is he whose ‘lingual self’ is stronger than the rest of his other types of selves, because if lustfulness is excessive, a person becomes an animal”.

We, as Muslim addicts in recovery, must reflect on this and begin to train ourselves so that our ‘lingual self’ – our minds, our intellect – become the governor over our lusts and physical states.  As Plato says; “Hence, one should tame his inner self by opposing lustfulness, controlling anger and following the lingual capacity, so he may become like the angels and avoid worshipping lust and anger (page 96)”.

Section One: How to Discipline Oneself

1) Discipline of the self is achieved through moving from one state to another: in our case from addiction/sinful for excessive behaviours to recovery/balance and working to good deeds that please Allah. The person must combine both hope and fear to achieve this. “He strengthens this discipline by keeping good company, leaving bad company, studying the Quran, beneficial stories, thinking about Paradise, Hell and reading the biographies of wise people and ascetics (page 96)”. 

2) Having a strong resolve and intention to ones self is the marker to change. We need to have a firm talk with ourselves and make a commitment to our recovery. “Know that if the self knows that you are serious it will also be serious and hardworking, it it knows that you are indolent it will become your master (page 97).”

3) Bringing oneself to account and judging our own actions is among the practises of disciplining the soul, otherwise known as ‘Muhassabah” in Arabic. (click here for articles about Muhassaba). In recovery, as Muslims, we must bring ourselves to account for every action in order to keep checking on what direction we are headed we need to keep track of ourselves.

Thus, this article has attempted to reflect on how this book relates to our lives today, as addicts in recovery on the path of Islam. If you made it to the end then say “Alhamdulillah (all praise is for Allah)” for helping us reach the end. My thoughts are that it is as though Ibn al Jawzi was alive today, writing this for us, not for those who lived beside him 1000 years ago. Islam is Islam. The scholars of the past knew and understood the nature of man, where we go wrong and what we need to do to get back on the Straight Path. He truly was “The Scholar of The Heart” may Allah have Mercy on him and raise his ranks. The biggest obstacle to change is our own selves. If we can discipline our souls and be constantly aware of the dialogue that goes on between our minds and our desires then we can take the path to betterment. Remember your mind is your leader. The mind is in charge. The mind is the boss of you and me. May Allah help us all to discipline our souls and keep walking the Straight Path to Recovery.


By Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor) 

 Download the book for free here