In this episode, Hashim and I talk about desires and shahawat: their different kinds, the wisdom behind them, and the many ways to help us curb them in our journeys, particularly for individuals who experience same-sex attractions.
Is it only Shaytan that whispers to us to inflame our desires? What are the different degrees of the nafs (self), and how are they relevant to our journey in life? What can be done individually and collectively to help us control our desires in a healthy manner? These and other questions are explored in this episode.
In this episode, Hashim and I talk about desires and shahawat: their different kinds, the wisdom behind them, and the many ways to help us curb them in our journeys, particularly for individuals who experience same-sex attractions.
Is it only Shaytan that whispers to us to inflame our desires? What are the different degrees of the nafs (self), and how are they relevant to our journey in life? What can be done individually and collectively to help us control our desires in a healthy manner? These and other questions are explored in this episode.
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta'ala wa barakatuh, and welcome to a brand new episode of "A Way Beyond the Rainbow," this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and Islam. I'm your host, Waheed Jensen, thank you so much for joining us in today's episode. Joining me again today is my friend Hashim as a co-host to this episode. Assalamu alaikum, Hashim.
Wa alaikom assalam, Br. Waheed. How are you doing?
I'm good, alhamdulillah. How are you this week?
Good, alhamdulillah. Good to see you again.
It's good to see you too, thank you. Today's two episodes are published back-to-back, inshaAllah, and they constitute the last two episodes of our spiritual series of this podcast. In this episode we will be talking about desires and shahawat, we'll be talking about the whisperings of the nafs (self) and different techniques on how to curb our desires to the best of our abilities. And in the next episode, inshaAllah, we'll be talking about spiritual awakenings and tying together all of the topics that have been presented from Episode 14 until this episode. So let's get started, inshaAllah.
So, as everyone knows, in the past couple of episodes with Hashim, we have covered the stories of Adam and Eve (peace be upon them), as well as their struggle with Satan, and all of the lessons that we could derive from that story in particular, and how it applies to us as humans, first and foremost, and as individuals who experience same-sex attractions. And then, in the last episode, we spoke about the story of the people of Lut (PBUH) and so many lessons that we could also derive from all of these stories. Now, if we are to look at the common denominator that is shared among these stories, we can see that there is this obvious theme of shahawat, or desires. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says in Surat An-Nazi'at, “As for him who fears standing before his Lord and forbids [his] soul from caprice (al-hawa)” (79:40). In Arabic, "al-hawa" means caprice or unlawful inclinations, but if we look at the term "hawa/هوى" on its own, in Arabic, it means to love or to lust, but it is also related to the verb that implies "to fall." Imagine someone falling from a high state to a low state, that is what "hawa" means. So, in other words, it is a metaphor to lustful desires, which caused the "hawa" or the fall of an individual from greatness to degradation. The worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala takes us to spiritual heights, and opposite to this, when we pursue the lowly and lustful desires that we have, this leads to a degraded state. And again, when we pursue them, and when we make our life revolve around them, as opposed to being patient against them and making sure that we are protecting ourselves from them, or fighting against them, and seeking support and God's help in the process. So this is what "hawa" means. If we look at the term "shahwa/شهوة", shahwa in general means "desires." And we know that we have so many different desires, and they are relevant to our different body parts. With this body that we have been given by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, we have all of these desires, which we can channel in good ways and righteous ways and maintain a state of balance, or we can take it to an extreme of indulgence or excessive pursuit of these particular desires. So, for example, we can have the shahwa of the stomach - food we need it as a form of sustenance and everyone needs to supply themselves with proper nutritious food, to be able to live and to carry on with this life. But excessive desire of food, excessive eating and drinking, excessive indulgence, that becomes problematic. And so the term here is "excessive." So we underline the term "excessive," this is the key. So we all need food and water obviously to survive, but anything in excess becomes a problem.
So the idea that desires are kind of normal and natural and if directed towards and within Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala's Wisdom and Guidance are good for us, like eating food to nourish us. But as soon as we kind of step out of that bounds, as soon as we commit an excess or go beyond that, then it becomes dangerous for us, because it goes back to the point that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is needless of us, but He loves us and He wants us to grow towards Him. And so He sets these things for our own safety in our own kind of steps that we need to take towards success, right?
Absolutely. Yeah, as you said, perfectly said, MashaAllah. So as far as the stomach is concerned, that is one aspect. Another body part is the eyes. So, you know, our eyes, we use them to see around and to communicate and to pursue our daily life as we want or as it should be. But we can indulge through our vision by excessively looking at people or belongings of other people or material wealth and so on. Looking at people's bodies, for example, people's beauty, people's 'awra (the private parts) which should be concealed. We can indulge with our vision and take it to an extreme of pursuing pornography. Another example is just mindlessly scrolling through social media like Instagram and Facebook and looking at other people's photos for hours and hours, and this can even take us to looking at semi-naked and even naked pictures. So that would be this excessive indulgence of not using the vision where Allah wanted us to use it, for the sake of good and carrying on with our lives and moving in a direction that pleases Him, we take it in a different direction.
And I think this whole idea, especially with people who struggle with SSA, and this constant looking outside ourselves for things that we wish to complete within ourselves. And this whole theme of us having been given these body parts in order for us to grow and to find Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, our eyes have been given to us, in order for us to see the creation of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and to be able to recognize Him. But we can take it too far, if we're trying to achieve certain needs, by doing the wrong thing with the things that He's given us, it kind of leads us into problems and leads us into like a downward spiral. We need to be aware of how we should channel the gifts that we've been given, the tools that we've been given to achieve our goal of finding Him rather than being separated from Him, I imagine.
Hundred percent. Absolutely. And it follows from the eyes that there is also an indulgence with the shahwa of sex, and the lower desires - any sexual acts outside of marriage between a man and a woman. So we're looking at the private parts as organs that Allah has given us in order to reproduce, and He has given us a proper channel which is marriage between a man and a woman, to be able to procreate and raise a family and for us to enjoy ourselves within the union of marriage. Now anything outside that particular channel that is lawful, involving, for example, fornication, adultery, sodomy, and so on, this becomes the blameworthy desires that Allah warns us from. And then, this can also apply to masturbation according to the school of law or fiqh that is followed, especially when we talk about excessive masturbation, that becomes a problem. So that's as far as private parts are concerned. We can also talk about the desires of the mind, so our mind constantly fantasizing or thinking about things that are not lawful, such as, for example, constantly and excessively thinking about prohibited sexual acts or particular behaviors or particular sins or wrongdoings, whether it's towards our selves or towards other people, so that becomes problematic. Or having bad thoughts about other people. And it can also apply to the heart itself, and here we're talking about emotions, and we're talking about the spirit. So, if we have bad feelings towards certain people, if we're talking about diseases of the heart, such as arrogance, pride, distrust, riyaa' (which is showing off our good deeds to other people because we want attention, because we want them to talk about us in a good way). Or, again, if we are excessively attached to specific people or to certain emotions, again, this is excessive. This is going beyond what is healthy for us as individuals, what is healthy for our bodies, our minds, our spirits. So, all of this together can give us an idea about those desires that Allah has put in us, because we have this worldly body that we live in and we have the spirit. So the spirit yearns for its Creator and wants to reach high states, but this body that we live in during this life is limited by these desires. And it depends on how we channel these desires and how we get close to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, versus how we distance ourselves from Him, as you said earlier. And one question is, how do we know if something is excessive? So how do I know - I don't really know if what I'm doing is excessive or not. Some people have said that if you think about this particular thing for most of your day, or if you take that day and most of your day is spent thinking about that, or a large part of your day is spent thinking about that particular thing, or maybe if it's the first thing that you wake up to in the morning, or if you go to sleep thinking about that particular thing, or if you think about that during prayer, and that is a very important point, because usually we might be focused during our work and everything else, but once we go to prayer, then our mind starts wandering and it goes to the things that it enjoys the most. So if any of these applies to us, then that might be something that's actually overtaking our mind. And we kind of need to be vigilant about that.
So this whole idea of shahawat and desires, remember, in the previous episodes, we were talking about the story of Adam (PBUH) and his wife Eve, and Satan and what happened in the Garden, and how Satan makes his promise to mislead mankind. So, remember the three things that we spoke about, like Satan identifies or sees a weakness in you, he then exploits that by, you know, whispering things to us that we think we want and perhaps hooking into these desires. And, in doing so, he gets us to go towards things which Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has warned us or told us not to go towards. And we do it, you know, we're overcome by our desires. We think of how we want to get them met. And, in a way, we then have our clothes stripped from us, in that kind of proverbial sense, in the sense that we bring harm upon ourselves by going towards that which Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has told us not to. And like you're saying, that the common theme is this weakness or having this desire that Satan exploits within all of us. So, you know, like in the story of Adam (PBUH) in Surat Al-A'raf, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says (and this is the entire narrative of what happened), “And We have certainly created you, [O mankind], and given you form. Then We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate to Adam!’ So they prostrated, except for Iblis; he was not of those who prostrated. [ Allah ] said, ‘What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?’ [Satan] said, ‘I am better than he. You created me from fire and created him from clay.’ [ Allah ] said, ‘Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; verily, you are among the debased.’ [Satan] said, ‘Grant me reprieve until the Day they are resurrected.’ [ Allah ] said, ‘Verily, you are among those granted reprieve.’ [Satan] said, ‘Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [unto You]’” (7:11-17). And then obviously, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in another verse in Surat Al-A'raf goes on to say, and this is like a reminder for all of us now, having heard the story of what happened to Adam (PBUH), and having understood Satan's plan to get us off the Straight Path, this is a warning, which basically says, “O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise, stripping them of their clothing to show them their private parts. Indeed, he sees you, he and his tribe, from whence you see them not. Truly, We have made the devils allies to those who do not believe” (7:27). So, you've got these things going on, these concepts being brought forward about sort of envy and arrogance and hatred. So this is all going on, and Satan having been shown up by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala when he refused to prostrate and bow. So his aim now, he's on a mission now to prove that he was right not to have bowed to Adam's potential, he's trying to sort of prove that Adam, and not only Adam but us as well, by extension, being his children, that we are not worthy of being bowed to and not worthy of being called Allah's vicegerent or khalifah on Earth, right? Satan is on this mission to kind of prove God wrong and that he (audhubillah) knew better than God, when God was saying, "Bow to Adam" and Satan going, "No! I'm better than him, why would You be telling me to do this?" And we said in the previous episode that, you know, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has allowed Satan to exist because his very presence and being part of this journey of all of us to find Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, him being there helps us recognize good. When we see the evil consequences of following his advice, as opposed to following Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala's advice, it makes us realize the contrast, or the wisdom and the benefit and the love that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has when He asks us or tells us to do certain things, you know, not for His benefit, but rather for our benefit. And, it's sad, but in a way, sometimes only when we ourselves or we see other people following Satan's advice or not following Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala's commands, and kind of falling down to this pit of despair, loss or disadvantage, either to themselves or to their communities and societies. Only when we see that, we can kind of step back and go, "You know, subhan Allah, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala was right. He is the Source of all wisdom. Who else would I want to worship other than Him?" This whole idea that we come into worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, not because we are slaves in the sense that we're just doing what we're told, but we want to worship Him because we see His wisdom, we see His beauty, we want to remain in His bounds, we want to pray to Him, we want to fast for Him, we want to do these things, and only being able to see those things when you've seen things go wrong, when you've seen Satan play his games and win in certain cases, only seeing that sometimes helps us maybe recognize Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. In a way, Satan thinks he's won by kind of saying, "I've got until the Day of Judgment to lead you astray," while Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is the Best of Planners, He knows that this is a means by which some of us, inshaAllah, will be able to recognize Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and fall in love with Him, fall into obedience through our desire to want to be closer to Him and to get closer to this Perfection. InshaAllah. As an extension of Satan - so even having desires or having tests in life are all things that bring us closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. These are all different challenges, in a way, challenges that we can use to build ourselves. So, you know, we spoke previously about how we recognize beauty in people, like when they have developed these beautiful qualities of forgiveness, reliance, resilience, these sort of things, but these things are only developed through difficult situations. So this whole idea of, you know, when we undergo these repeated desires and whispers, and they are kind of a necessary stimulus for us to build ourselves as individuals and to hold on to the Rope of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. The only reason you would hold on to a rope is if something is shaking you, or something is going wrong in your life, and you have to reach out and hold on to something in the first place. And having tests or having to battle with or confront our inner most desires, perhaps to do things that take us away from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, being in that situation is a reason for us to reach out and hold on to the Rope. Only good comes out of going towards Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Only growth and success will come from us having reached out for that Rope. So, this whole thing about desires existing as a stepping stone, which we can then use to grow towards Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and through trying to conquer them over and over again, and through directing ourselves in response to them towards Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and His provision, outlets and the things that He provides. By doing so, we get closer to Him. And going back to what's the purpose of all of this, what's the purpose of life, what is every niyyah (intention) that we do? To get closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. So these are just means, a way that He can nudge us towards Him, towards His mercy, wanting us to discover Him and to define Him. And then the reward of all that, of going towards Him, are these Divine openings, the resulting happiness, peace and tranquility, that come from being in that sort of "garden" that Ibrahim (PBUH) was in - surrounded by the fire, but with his love and his connection with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala meant that he was in a garden. And I remember going to a lecture once and being told, you know, you don't have to wait till the Day of Judgment to enter Paradise, you could be in paradise right now, if you have that connection with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Whatever's going on, you know, around you in your life, if you're holding on to that Rope, and you know that everything, as long as you're doing the right thing, everything will be okay in the end. There is more to this life, that brings that kind of stillness and peace and calm to a person, no matter what the situation, right? So this whole idea of, you know, encountering lusts, encountering desires, encountering struggles and trials, to build us, it's the reason why we're here, in order to help us find Him.
And then the comparison between humans and angels, Imam Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Allah created the angels from intellect, and He did not place lust in them; and He created the animals with lust, but did not place intellect in them. But He placed both intellect and lust in the children of Adam (PBUH)." Why would He do that? Why would He put both in us? You know, things could have been so much easier if we didn't have lust, we would just be like angels, we would obey and we would just do what we were told and whatever. So the quote goes on to say, "Therefore, he whose intellect overcomes his lust is greater than the angels. And he whose lust overcomes his intellect is lower than the animals.” So this idea that we've got these two things in us, this intellect and lust, in order to be able to use one to overcome the other, in order for us to grow, in order for us to be greater than the angels. I think that kind of explains why, this is why Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala asks the angels to bow to Adam (PBUH) because of the potential that this creation has, we as children of Adam, in order to grow, to be more than we are. But then, again, obviously, it works in the opposite direction as well. So just like the saying mentioned, if his lust overcomes his intellect, then that can lead into the opposite direction. So this idea of us living in this world of cause and effect, if your intellect overcomes your lust, you can grow higher and grow higher spiritually. But if your lust overcomes your intellect, it has an equal and opposite reaction in that you will lower yourself, you will become worse than an animal. And let's be honest, some of us have done things that even animals wouldn't do. By looking at some of the things that happened in my life, I'm like, "Why would I do such a dumb thing?" And you kind of think, "What was going on there?" It's exactly what it says here, there have been times when your desires just overwhelm you so much. I speak for myself that there were times when I'm so disconnected from God, like He is not present in my thoughts and in my life, which means then that my desires can overwhelm me, and that's all I think about, this world, who I am and what I can achieve. Am I desirable, am I seen by other people as being this or that? It's really easy to fall into that, isn't it?
Yeah. And sometimes we're actually taken by surprise. So you find some people who are in that spiritual high, but somehow, something happens and they're taken by surprise. And then they're like, "Oh my God, what was I thinking? What happened?" Right? Because we're human at the end of the day, snd sometimes we're overpowered by these desires.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Subhan Allah, that's a lesson, isn't it? It's something we go through that pulls us off our high horse sometimes, and we will talk about this later, but sometimes you can get to the position where you think, "Oh, I'm so great. I'm refraining from this, I'm refraining from that, bla bla." And actually, you know, God's like, "Whoa, there! You've got a long way to go." But it's good, because it humbles us and helps us see where we are and see that we do have to constantly hold on to Him, constantly hold on to that Rope. So this idea of elevating and lowering ourselves based on how we react to these lusts. This whole concept has been addressed in Surat At-Teen in the Qur'an, where Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, “We have certainly created man in the best of stature / then We return him to the lowest of the low / except for those who believe and do righteous deeds, for they will have a reward uninterrupted” (95:4-6). We have this potential, and if we don't channel ourselves in the correct way with the advice of the All-Wise, with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, if we don't, then we become lower. The result is that we lower ourselves. And the verse says, "except for those who believe and do righteous deeds," in the sense that if we have faith in Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, if we hold on to Him, and through that, if we live in the way He has asked us to live, He's told us to live, then we will have achieved that potential that made Him say to the angels to bow to Adam and us, by extension, right?
True. And actually talking about this, we remember the Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) who said, "Paradise is surrounded by hardships (ḥuffat al-jannah bi’l-makarih), and Hellfire is surrounded by temptation and desires (ḥuffat al-nār bi’l-shahawāt).” Similarly, according to another hadith of the Prophet (PBUH), “The Angel Gabriel was commanded to look at the Fire, after which he said to God, ‘By Thy Honor, none shall enter it.’ God then ordered that the Fire be surrounded by pleasures and instructed the Angel to look at it once more. Upon seeing the temptation and pleasures surrounding the Fire, Gabriel remarked, ‘By Thy Honor, I fear none shall be saved from it but that all shall enter it.’” Which actually means, because the Fire has been surrounded by temptation, and it has been surrounded by pleasures, and everyone is susceptible to that, it means that everyone actually has the potential of falling and continuing to fall and actually ending up in Hellfire, may Allah protect us from that. And by the same token, Paradise has been surrounded by hardships, because Paradise has a price to earn, and that involves us going through hardships and trials and tribulations to purify us and to strengthen us to make us worthy of going back to where we came from, as we were talking in the previous episodes. And in another hadith of the Prophet (PBUH), he said, "Whoever guarantees me what is between his two jaws (meaning his tongue) and what is between his two thighs (meaning his sexual desire), I shall guarantee him Paradise." And there's always an emphasis as we see on the tongue, in terms of, you know, using your speech wisely, avoiding all unlawful speech, whatever that may be, and using your speech in ways to better yourself, to better other people, or to remain quiet, because a lot of times, remaining quiet is a virtue that many of us unfortunately are not able to exercise. And the implications of all of these ahaadeeth is clear: Chastity and being virtuous are difficult things, but they're essential. And it's very important for us to try as much as we can to uphold them. And self-restraint is also a challenging, but an important ethical imperative. And it comes from the tawfeeq (support) of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala that He allows the person to successfully uphold those virtues, because they're not easy. And everything that we have that is good comes from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. And when we are given this tawfeeq, based on the Mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and based on our striving as well to maintain that, because a part of it involves us making that step towards Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, being sincere and striving as much as we can. So when we have success in upholding those virtues, Allah rewards us, inshaAllah, with Paradise.
InshaAllah. Like the hadith says, Paradise is surrounded by hardships, Hellfire is surrounded by temptation and desires. For us when we're not conscious of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, when we're not conscious of the bigger picture of things, why wouldn't we avoid hardship? Why wouldn't we not go towards temptation and desires? We've said before, we live in a world where nobody talks about the unseen anymore, nobody talks about Day of Judgment without kind of smerking and thinking of it as a bit of a fairy tale. So, when you've taken that away from our understanding of life and who we are and what we're doing here, it becomes so easy to avoid hardships and it becomes so easy to say, "Well, why not give in to temptation and desire? Why shouldn't I?" It's hard, but it's this constant understanding of like all the prophets told their people, being aware of God, have taqwa (God-consciousness), fear Allah, fear the consequences of not taking His advice, understanding the bigger picture. I think that's so necessary in order to help us differentiate between hardships, temptations and desires and what we should go towards and challenge us, and what we should avoid.
Absolutely. And Ibn Hazm, in his book Ṭawq al-ḥamāma (The Ring of the Dove), in a chapter entitled “Of the Virtue of Continence” he says: “The finest quality that a man can display in love is continence: to abstain from sin and all indecency. For so will he prove himself to be not indifferent to the heavenly reward: that eternal bliss reserved by God for those who dwell in His everlasting kingdom, nor will he disobey his Master, Who has been so gracious to him in appointing him to be a creature worthy of receiving His commandments and prohibitions, Who sent unto him His Messengers, and caused His Word to be immovably established with him—all this as a mark of His care for us, and His benevolence towards us. The man whose heart is distraught and his mind preoccupied, whose yearning waxes so violent that it overmasters him, whose passion desires to conquer his reason, and whose lust would vanquish his religion—such a man, if he sets up self-reproach to be his strong tower of defense, is aware that the soul indeed ‘ever commands unto evil’ (Surat Yusuf, 12:53).” And later, Ibn Hazm describes the person who has blazing passion in him, but remains patient and steadfast for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, he says, “Surely he is worthy to rejoice tomorrow on the Day of Resurrection and to stand among those brought near to God’s throne in the abode of recompense and the world of everlasting life; surely he has a right to be secure from the terrors of the Great Uprising, and the awful dread of the Last Judgement, and that Allah shall compensate him on the Day of Resurrection with peace for the anguish he suffers here below!” May Allah make us among those people, inshaAllah.
Ameen, inshaAllah. And I think that ties in so nicely to the idea in the Qur’an, you know, when Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, “Remember me and I will remember you, be thankful to Me and don't be ungrateful,” in the sense that it all starts off with keeping Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala front and center of our minds, which then helps keep our desires in check, because without that remembrance of Allah and bigger picture, the desires do become overwhelming. They do become really tempting and then you have no reason not to go towards them without that wisdom or understanding. So this remembrance of God helps us and helps us to develop a heart that's devoted to Him and focused on Him. If we want to be able to focus on God, then we have to reduce the distractions that are going on around us to help us to do that. Because anything that distracts us from Him alienates us from Him, and we want to remove all of these obstacles or at least identify and push aside or deal with or treat or whatever you need to do in order to clear up our path towards Him. So, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, in Surat al-Kahf, He says, ““Make your soul patient with those who call upon their Lord morning and evening, desiring His face. And turn not your eyes away from them, desiring the adornment of the life of this world, and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his caprice / lusts (his hawa), and whose affair exceeds the bounds” (18:28). So this idea of “make yourself patient with those who call upon their Lord morning and evening” – so, talking about the remembrance of God, talking about prayer, centering ourselves not just on praying and doing the actions and saying the words and zipping through it, but actually consciously having that mi‘raj towards Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala five times a day, right? And walking away from your prayer mat, feeling complete and feeling whole and feeling re-centered on this path. And it is hard, it is difficult. And then it says, “Turn not your eyes away from them, desiring the adornment of the life of this world . . . Obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of our remembrance and who follows his caprice.” So many times we're flicking through Instagram, we’re flipping through Facebook, like you were saying before, we are looking at people who are not living in God's way, right? And why? Ask ourselves, I asked myself that: why would I waste my time looking at someone like that and looking at someone living a lifestyle, who is living in a way that his Creator doesn't want him to live, for his own good, for his own safety? Why am I constantly looking for that? What's going on within me, you know, this opportunity to self-reflect and to put things into perspective. There’s this idea that when we refrain from sin and refrain from darkness that we allow, by holding Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala we allow light to enter our heart. Again, in Surah al-Nur, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze” -- as in not to look at forbidden things -- “and to guard their private parts, and tell the believing women to lower their gaze -- again, from looking at forbidden thing -- and to guard their private parts…” (24:30-31). So, this idea of don't look at forbidden things, stop this chain reaction as early as you can, right? Remember the whole idea about prevention being better than cure? And then because I think, for my understanding of this verse is telling everybody to lower their gaze and to guard their private parts, because if you don't lower your gaze, it will then lead on to you committing something with your private parts that we probably shouldn't do. Right? So it's, it's this chain reaction, one thing leading to another. And this whole idea of, if we do protect ourselves in this way -- protecting our chastity just been one thing of many things that we need to protect as Muslims -- but this idea that if we do that, then it leads on to this light entering our hearts because even in that surah I just quoted, straight after that comes the verse about about the light, Ayat al-Nur, so Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things” (24:35). So this idea that if we do certain things, if we protect ourselves, if we stop, you know, if we overcome our desires or we don't give in to them, if we stop ourselves before things become too bad, then the result is this likeness of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala’s Light entering our heart for those who obey His command and heed His prohibitions. So the result of this, in this heart that is enlightened, the result of that is blessings coming to it from all sides, right? So Allah entering your life and giving you that sort of inner peace, which is what we're all looking for, right? But the opposite is, if our hearts are darkened because we haven't taken His advice, we've kind of allowed ourselves to become overwhelmed by our desires and by engaging in them, it kind of leads to darkness, and then the natural result of not taking the advice of the All-Knowing, which is calamity and an evil in the sense of harm that we bring upon ourselves. So then the result of this darkened heart is that we've lost that closeness, we’ve lost that connection with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and that the darkened heart is, if you imagine when when a place has no light, the place has nothing, nothing illuminating it, we're left blind in a sense, right? We need light to bounce off things in order for us to recognize things. And so without that light within our heart, we're left like a blind man stumbling in the darkness. So Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala talks about this again in Surat al-Nur, and I think we mentioned it, it was mentioned in Episode 14, when you were talking about the different types of darknesses that we can encounter. So Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, “Or [they are] like darknesses within an unfathomable sea which is covered by waves, upon which are waves, over which are clouds - darknesses, some of them upon others. When one puts out his hand [therein], he can hardly see it. And he to whom Allah has not granted light - for him there is no light” (24:40). I think we can relate, you know? Sometimes we enter places in our life, times in our lives where we're so engulfed with our desires, we’re so engulfed in sin, we're so engulfed with doing things that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala doesn't want us to do that we lose sight of who we are, right? We lose sight of that potential that the angels bowed to, we lose sight of us being creations, souls. Allah has breathed His Spirit into us, you know? How special is that? And how much we forget that when we are engulfed in these kinds of practices, in these kinds of behaviors and these kinds of fantasies that we indulge in, we . . . you know, I can so see what the Qur’an means that we lower ourselves below the animals. Sometimes we lose that connection. And so again, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala refers to this in Surat al-An‘am, where He says, “And is one who was dead and We gave him life and made for him light by which to walk among the people like one who is in darkness, never to emerge therefrom? Thus it has been made pleasing to the disbelievers that which they were doing” (6:122). So this idea that what we do takes us into darkness, but at the same time, we can come out of that by enveloping ourselves and Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala enveloping us in His wisdom and His advice, to allow light to then enter our hearts. So, this idea that there is a way to pull ourselves out of that darkness, and if we take that step towards Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, He will then return that by running towards us, like we said previously, and by enlightening us and helping us move forward. So, this idea that with His light comes true insight, [and] we can use that insight to distinguish between truth and falsehood, sincerity and lies, and all these other things that we go through. So, remember that we were talking about Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, rewarding us for our good deeds with something similar. So, if we give up something for His sake, He will compensate us with something better, right? So this world that we live in of cause and effect . . . in the same way, if we curb our desires, if we lower our gaze, if we challenge ourselves to remain steadfast, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala will compensate us with true enlightenment. He will open the doors of knowledge and He will give us faith and true insight, which can only be attained by means of light in our hearts. And remember that it happens according to His schedule, not our schedules, right? So, you know, sometimes we think we’ll give up something for a day or a week or a month and expect things to change, but He does it on his own schedule. But He always pulls through, right? He always pulls through for us at the end of the day, and even if we don't recognize it immediately, He plans and He is the best of planners, and He will meander or change things around us to enable us to make things easier for us. And I know this struggle is really hard for a lot of people. And even I have in my past been through a lot of things where I've been alone and thought, you know, “What does this mean? Am I going to be alone for the rest of my life? If I don't engage in this, am I going to just be, you know, some guy sitting in a house by myself?” But actually looking back, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala . . . He just takes care of those . . . I always tell myself, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala takes care of His lovers and His lovers take care of others, right? He will always be there, He will always look after you, and He will always pull through, and He will always help you achieve that sense of peace, knowing that as long as you're doing the right thing, everything will be okay. So I think in a way, that is the kind of light that He gives people who try and strive in His way. From the outside it might look difficult, whereas inside they are in Ibrahim’s garden, they are in that state of peace. And we see, like from what we were talking about in the previous episode of the people of Lut, what is the consequence of not having Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala’s Light, of not taking His advice, of not walking in His way, you know? This lack of light leads to blindness and that leads to wandering in the dark, right? And then we see that when Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala was talking about the people of Lut in Surat al-Hijr, He says, “By your life!” -- referring to . . . He’s swearing by the holy Prophet's life -- He says, “Indeed they wandered (blindly) in their drunkenness” (15:68-72). So that the state that they've put themselves in from not taking His advice, this kind of separation that they now have from God. Because of the lack of light, they're just wandering around not knowing where they're going, not knowing what they're doing. So this constant holding on to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, this . . . over and over again, this reaching out, this developing this grip on Him. And it's not a one-time thing; it's a thing that we have to constantly do and we are still doing, right? It's like a repeated exercise that builds a sort of strength that we have, [the strength] of our heart. And doing so brings things about like, we said, peace and strength and steadfastness, as opposed to the weakness and the guilt and the shame and isolation that come from not holding onto Him and from being away from Him.
And, you know, some of the benefits that being close to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala brings is that we improve our self-esteem, knowing that we're doing the right thing -- not in a prideful way, but in a way that kind of gives us a sense of inner security, right? It improves our willpower. We end up with better relations with our family, with our friends, with our colleagues, because we are more centered within ourselves, right? We don't have this inner loss within us, that we know what we're doing and we know that everything is going to be alright. And we can focus then better on our purpose and our career, and even focus better in our prayers, right? So we were talking about how sometimes in our prayers, when we're engulfed in our desires, that they're there all the time, whereas when we've taken these steps to curb them, to address them, to deal with them earlier on, it helps us focus better, helps us to make better use of our time, etc. There's a hadith that talks about this concept. It basically says, “The one who goes against his whims and desires, the Shaytan leaves from his shadow.” So, do you remember the idea that we were talking about, how if you disbelieve and you walk away from God, then the result is that you're appointed a Satan, or a shaytan, to walk with you, right? And so the equal and opposite of that is if you walk away from your whims and you struggle against your desires, then that shaytan then flees from you. So in a way things should get easier if you take one step closer to Allah, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala comes running to you, this kind of opposite reaction. But when we take a step towards Him, in fact He multiplies it manifold. He helps us more than we deserve when we try and go towards Him. But then obviously, like we were talking about, the equal and opposite reactions are that if we follow our whims and desires, then we end up feeling a sense of humiliation, indignity, worthlessness, insignificance. And we've all been there, we've all felt like that, and you feel worse. You know, when when we've done things that we shouldn't have done, maybe we've engaged in pornography or maybe we've engaged in some sort of illicit sexual act, then we come home and we end up in this sort of downward spiral saying, you know, “I'm rubbish, I'm not worthy. Look at what I've done.” It's, you know, it's these feelings that have come about by us walking away from that light and giving in to our desires. So there’s another hadith from al-Hasan (ra), who says, “Even if they ride the finest of mounts, the effect of sin will never depart from them. Allah insists that the one who disobeys Him will be humiliated.” And then Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says in Surat Fatir, “Whosoever desires honor and glory, to Allah belong honor and glory altogether” (35:10). In other words, you can get honor and glory only by obeying and worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala alone and going towards Him. And it goes on to say, “Unto Him” -- as in referring to Allah -- “ascends the goodly word, and He uplifts the righteous deed” (35:10). In other words, we say pious words and they should be followed up by righteous actions. So, if we want to feel whole, if we want to feel honor, if we want to feel this sense of worthiness, then we find that through seeking . . . as in, we find these things through obedience, our obedience to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and remembrance of Him, and speaking goodly words, and following them up with righteous deeds. It's one leads to another leads to another, right? And then we even say, when we do al-qunut, we say, “He is not humiliated whom You befriend, nor is he honored whom You take as an enemy.” So, this idea of us befriending Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and taking Him as our wali and obeying Him results in us having support and honor from Him, in proportion to the obedience that we then show towards Him.
Indeed, subhan Allah. So is it just Shaytan that whispers to us and whispers evil into our minds and hearts? So to answer this question, we went back to the beautiful qasida/poem that is known as "Qasidat al-Burda," which was written by Imam al-Busiri, and the entire poem is a beautiful piece of writing in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There are two beautiful lines from it, and they're towards the beginning where he talks about the nafs or the self. And so they go as such: "Oppose your nafs and the shaytan and disobey them, And if they proffer you advice, then be suspicious (of it). And obey neither one of them, whether litigant or arbiter, For you know (well) the wiles of the litigant and the arbiter." So, what he's trying to say is, he's setting a scene here. He's telling us that you are at odds with someone else, and this person that you are at odds with (and in Arabic it's called "khasm/خصم" - an enemy, so to speak). And this person is always trying to get the better of you, he's trying to take advantage of your weaknesses, he's trying to rob you of your inborn tendency for taqwa and God-consciousness and so on. And you and that person are standing in a courtroom before the judge, and the judge is supposed to decide justly between the two of you and to grant each of you your proper rights. And, in here, Imam Al-Busiri says, if you are at odds with your nafs, so if your nafs here is acting as your enemy or your khasm, then you're not going to take your case to Shaytan as your judge, because, obviously Shaytan is going to rule against you and in favor of your nafs. And, similarly, if the Shaytan is the one who is your enemy, and he's tempting you directly, if Shaytan is your khasm, then don't take your case to your nafs to act as the judge or the arbiter, because that nafs as well is going to rule against you and will side with Shaytan. And so, from this, it kind of gives us the idea that there's Shaytan and there's the nafs, which is our self. And our self has its own desires, it has its own inclinations, obviously, it craves certain things and it has its own whisperings. Our nafs whisper to us their own desires and the things that they want to do. And we are also taught in our Deen of the different types of nafs, there are many levels of the nafs. Three of those levels or the types of nafs are mentioned in the Qur'an. So Allah speaks of al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’ (النفس الأمارة بالسوء), which means the nafs that commands the person to sin. And this is the lowest kind of nafs, it is involved with the basic desires, all it wants is to indulge with the desires - it's not just shahawat that we spoke about, but also pride, envy (and we remember with pride and envy the sins of Satan, he had envy of Adam and had pride and arrogance in himself). So that's al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’, it has all of these vices and so many other moral vices that kind of conspire against us, and those are Satan's playing field in our hearts and souls, so to speak. So this is the lowest kind of nafs, the one that indulges with its basic desires. A nafs that is higher than that, it has a higher station is called al-nafs al-lawwama (النفس اللوامة). This admonishes the person who has committed the sin. There is sort of a healthy guilt. "Why did I do that? I shouldn't have done that. I should make amends. Let me go back to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Oh my God, this is so beneath me! How could I have thought about that? How could I have done that?" and so on. So this is al-nafs al-lawwama which is talking. Sometimes we might refer to it as our own conscience. So it kind of helps us make tawbah (repentance), it pushes us to reconcile with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. And then, a third kind of nafs that is mentioned in the Qur'an, which is an even higher station than that is al-nafs al-mutma’inna (النفس المطمئنة), which means the secure and the calm nafs, that is the tranquil and peaceful nafs. It's the kind of nafs that is in a higher spiritual state, one that is connected with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. And obviously, there are even higher states of the nafs as well. Now, the point from all of this is to say that we are subjected to our lowest nafs and the whispers from Shaytan, obviously, and it's normal to feel that there are forces pulling us in a direction conflicting with our "ideal self."
When people talk about, you know, especially in the topic of homosexuality and the sort of desires that people have, people say, "Be true to yourself," or "This is who I am." I guess, would we say then that they're talking about al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’, which are these things that draw us towards you know base desires without sort of the intellect that we've been given to shine a light on them and say, "Well, is this right? Should we be doing this? Were we created to do this? Is this within Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala's Wisdom?" What you've raised here, the three different types of nafs: al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’, al-nafs al-lawwama, al-nafs al-mutma’inna. I think that that's something really important that we should be aware of, like when we talk about the self and being true to ourselves, who are we... It's easy to fall into the trap of adopting al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’, as who we are and what we should follow, right?
Exactly. Hundred percent. Yeah. And especially if those whisperings or those sayings, even from people, they appeal to our basic desires, if we're going to identify with those basic desires, then this is definitely very appealing, not only to the Shaytan, but also to this nafs that is craving those desires itself. And one can say that it's not like you achieve one station and then you're done, like you're never going to go back to the lower nafs. No, we all oscillate between all these kinds of nafs. Sometimes, we're craving all these basic desires and al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’ is the one who's whispering to us non-stop. If we fall into sin, for example, we have al-nafs al-lawwama in action sometimes lamenting and pushing us to make tawbah. And sometimes we are very close to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, that we have that highest state, which is al-nafs al-mutma’inna, secure and peaceful. And then, some other days, we can go back to al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’, because there are all of these desires that are coming up. So it's like a pendulum, and we oscillate between different states. Especially in Ramadan, we know that the Shayateen are locked up during the Holy Month. And so it's a perfect opportunity for us to kind of deal with our nafs, it is quality time to focus on the nafs, especially when we're fasting, because our basic desires are kind of sealed, we are not allowed to engage in sexual intercourse or to have food or drink or any of that. So we focus entirely on the purification of the self.
It ties in really nicely with something Shaykh Fadel was saying in a talk he recently gave on Strong Support. We were asking him, you know, what's going on here with these desires and same-sex attractions (outside of a psychological approach, but from a spiritual approach), why are we having these feelings, what's going on? Is it Shaytan? Is it nafs? What's happening? I think his answer was basically that Shaytan can only whisper to a weakened nafs, he can only whisper to this al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’. And the way we we protect ourselves from it is by using our intellect and by moving towards this al-nafs al-mutma’inna, which is this calm and secure nafs, which is tranquil and peaceful, this state of peace, knowing that, in our obedience and our worship to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, everything will be okay. Therefore, like we were saying, then Satan can't invade that sort of barrier that we've put up between us and him, because we are in this higher spiritual state connected to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.
Absolutely. And you know, as we said, it's a process, and we will go up and down, we will inevitably slip and fall. But what matters is that we get back up and we continue moving, because Shaytan loves despair. He loves to whisper despair in our hearts over any failures that we go through. And it's just a trick of the Shaytan to make us give up. Allah subhnahau wa ta'ala reminds us in the Qur'an, for example, in Surat Al-A'raf, He says, والعاقبة للمتقين “And the [best] outcome is for the righteous” (7:128). So we keep on striving, even if we fall, we get back up, we repent to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, we make amends, and we move on. And this is what matters.
Let's now talk about how to curb our desires. And actually, Hashim and I were discussing this before we started recording the episode. We just want to put it out there that none of us has it all figured out. And we're all not perfect individuals, obviously, none of us is. But when we mention this, we're saying that this is an ideal that we strive for, we try our best to reach those standards that are set by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. This doesn't mean that any of us is going to achieve perfection or any of us is going to achieve those hundred percent of the time, 24/7. That's not going to happen, but we try our best to move in that direction. If we fall, again, we get back up, we make amends, we make tawbah, and we keep on moving forward. So, whatever we present here is a reminder for us, first and foremost, and for the listeners and everyone who listens to us, to kind of see this as something that we work on every single day. And we try our best, and we seek the help of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in the process, right?
So, looking at practical ways in which we can curb our desires, in which we can gain practice in controlling them, this whole idea of using our intellect to overcome our lust as from the quote from Imam Ali. The first one of those was hayaa', which means modesty, right? Modesty is a comprehensive terms, it doesn't just mean the way you dress, it's not just talking about hijaab (head scarf) or you know, the way you cover yourself, it is a whole encompassing thing. So it means the way you live your life, which includes the way we dress, how we walk, how we talk, the types of relationships that we have with people, professional and otherwise. So, in having hayaa', especially when you're struggling with SSA and perhaps interacting with people of the same gender, always remember, not only about the way we dress, but the way we interact with them, you know, this whole idea of keep it halal, not just in terms of what we're looking at, but the types of interactions that we're having and being conscious of who we are, why we're here and what we're doing. And the second thing that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala refers to in the Qur'an, about lowering the gaze, right? And this is an easy thing to say, but actually, this whole idea of Islam talking about prevention rather than cure, and, you know, it's easier to stop something going too far than to then try and repair the damage that's been done. So, this idea of these eyes being sort of the things that plant seeds of desires into our heart. And to care for your heart, you know, like we care for it, right? Like with a child, you would want to prevent your child from seeing things that are disturbing, or seeing things that will upset them or seeing things that they're not ready to see. So, the same thing - they talk about it in Western cultures, eyes being the windows of the soul - but in a way that what we see goes directly into our heart and can taint our heart in a way. So, you know, when we look at things like pornography and things like that, they are disturbing our heart. We may not think it, but our eyes are things that are given to us, they are gifts from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, they will speak about us on the Day of Judgment. This whole idea of our limbs talking about us, saying like, "Hashim made me look at this, Hashim made me do this, Hashim made me do that, why did he make me do this? I didn't want to do this." And then I'm going to be there, not being able to say anything or saying that, you know, "I'm sorry, I didn't know what I was doing, I was aiming for the wrong thing, and I'm sorry that I used you in that way." So, you know, God wants to protect us from ending up in that situation, just like a father or mother wants to protect their child from getting hurt. So, lowering the gaze (ghadd al-basar/غض البصر), which means restraining it and not allowing it to wander or dwell upon anything, which includes, you know, not looking at the 'awra (parts which should be covered, including private parts) of another person, or refraining from looking at sights of desires, like the parts of a person or things that stimulate desire. We said before, like in Surat An-Nur, “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do” (24:30). Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala knows what's going on, He sees everything, He knows the implications of what will happen if we look at things that we're not supposed to look at, He is just trying to protect us from going down a bad road, from things that lead to harm to ourselves. And there's a well-known hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) when he tells Imam Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), he says, “Do not let a second look follow the first ((لا تُتبع النظرة النظرة. The first look is allowed to you, but not the second.” So this idea that, you know, when you're looking around, we know that when you're looking at something for the first time, you know, it's accidental, because you have to see where you're going, you have to understand so you do not fall over or to see who's around you. That first look is forgiven, so you're looking around and realize, you know, your eyes fall upon someone who's attractive or cute or whatever. And then the the idea of lowering the gaze, that we then look away. And you're not held responsible for the first look, because you don't know that they're even there in the first place. But once you realize that there is something there that you need to avert your gaze from, then the responsibility is on us to then do it, right? That second glance, that's the one which we are held accountable for, that's the one which is within our conscious control. So that's the one that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is trying to warn us about. And it's tricky, like with anything, like you were saying before, this is not a one-time thing, like with anything, developing this grip on the Rope of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, it takes practice. One day you go out, and you will look at everything, and then you come home and you're like "Okay, I probably should not have looked." The next day, you go out again, and then the first time you see someone, you're like, "Okay, remember what happened yesterday? Okay, let me lower my gaze." And it takes practice, like with anything, it's a skill that we need to develop. And just because we slip or we fall or whatever, like you're saying, that's Satan talking to us, to get us to lose hope in the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, to get us off the Path, that's all part of his plan. So, you know, we get back up, we dust ourselves off and we keep going, and we keep developing that strength. There's another hadith of Jabir b. ‘Abd Allah (may Allah be pleased with him), he said, “I asked the Messenger of Allah (saas) about the unexpected glance. He replied, ‘Avert your eyes,’ meaning, do not look back deliberately.” And in a very short but powerful statement reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, the Prophet PBUH said, “The glance is one of the empoisoned arrows of Iblis ((النظرة سهم مسموم من سهام إبليس." So, again, it's one of the things in Iblis's arsenal which he uses, remember the three-step process, that he finds a weakness, he exploits our desires and takes us towards that which Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala doesn't want us to do. So the glance is one of the things that he uses to engage us.
And so one of the very nice descriptions about how this happens - and "nice" in terms of being poetic and not nice in terms of the process, because it's horrifying - Shaytan enters the heart through our looking, or our gaze, and then he penetrates the heart faster than the wind that is blowing through an empty space. He may present to us an image that we looked at and would make it attractive like an idol to which our hearts become devoted. It's that passionate longing. And then, he encourages us and gives us hopes and fans the flames of desire in our hearts. And as Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says in Surat An-Nisa', يعدهم ويمنّيهم ولا يعدهم الشيطان إلا غرورا -- “Satan promises them and arouses desire in them. But Satan does not promise them except delusion” (4:120). So he adds fuel to a fire that's already flaming, and this results in infatuation and frustration. So, in other words, what we can say is that between the eyes and the heart there is a connection, which means that one is affected by the other. And if one of them becomes good, the other will become good. If we take care of our vision and we avert our gaze from that which is unlawful, then, you know, our heart is content and peaceful, and it becomes righteous. And if one of them is corrupt, the other will become corrupt, by the same token. And so it applies both ways - if the heart becomes corrupt, obviously, the gaze will also become corrupt. And if the gaze becomes corrupt, the heart will become corrupt. And if one of them is sound, the other will be sound, and so on. So this is one thing to keep in mind. And some of our scholars have actually explained how the process happens. So, al-nadhra/النظرة, which means the glance, lies at the root of so many "accidents", or hawadith/حوادث in Arabic, or unfortunate events that kind of befall us. And here we're talking about the the realm of desires/lusts and what it can lead to. And, as we know by experience, a simple glance can come from just a suggestive thought, which is a khatira/خاطرة. So, we have a suggestive thought that comes right out of nowhere, and if this is unchecked, this khatira is unchecked, and it is there, it kind of festers and gives rise to a more stable and long-lasting thought, which becomes a fikra/فكرة, an idea, a long-lasting idea or thought, that is similar to what we call "fantasizing." Now, if this fikra becomes unchecked, then it takes itself to the next level, where it kind of ignites the carnal desire, and this becomes shahwa/شهوة. Again, we're talking about desires, so shahwa. And then, if this shahwa is unchecked, it can become an actual will, which is irada/إرادة, to carry out this prohibited act. I haven't yet carried it out, but I have the intention or the will to do that. Again, going back to al-nafs al-ammara bi-l-su’, which is our lower nafs, if we desire something and we have the shahwa for it - moving from that point to the point of having the irada is a huge step, which kind of brings us to the point just before the point of no return as they say, so I'm at the brink of actually committing the haram (unlawful). And that is the risky stage, that is the most dangerous part, because I'm about to commit the haram. And if this is unchecked, then this irada or the will is going to strengthen to the point where it becomes a firm resolution, which is the ‘azima jazima/عزيمة جازمة. Once I am resolved to commit the act, then either I have this point of no return, after which the act will definitely follow, unless it is prevented by some external impediment. This would ultimately end up in the act itself. So, we can see that there's a sequence as to how things develop if they remain unchecked. So, as I described, this is from our tradition, our scholars have described this sequence, and it's very accurate, it's very nuanced, how these things emerge. We're going from a stray glance of the eye, and then it becomes a khatira, which eventually becomes a shahwa, it ignites the desire, and then it becomes an irada, and then it becomes a firm resolution to commit the act, and eventually the act will follow. Understanding the psychology of the nafs is very important for us to get a handle on our actions, and to understand that, "Okay, I'm at that stage, which means that there is danger coming in. So let me be firm with myself, because, otherwise, things are not going to go well." And this happens with all of our actions, whether SSA-inflected or not, it applies to everything in our life, particularly our sexual behaviors, obviously.
And that's really interesting, because the way you've described it is very similar to the way psychologists describe addictive, destructive behaviors and they talk about the series of steps that lead up to it, and how important it is that you catch yourself early to stop this cascade effect from taking place, because the later on you wait, the more difficult it is to then stop yourself, right? Subhan Allah, that's really interesting that it's the same sort of thing that's actually been recognized through our faith. This whole thing about lowering the gaze, catching something early, the earlier you catch yourself in this increasingly incendiary process, the easier it is to control and then rein in the nafs. So, obviously, then, the earlier you are in the process, the more chances you have of being able to restrain the passions of the nafs through the restraint of the intellect or the 'aql/عقل that we have, which, in a way, ties down or holds down or retrains the waywardness of our passions. And we see this in other things as well, you know, people who are recovering alcoholics, they're told to not even go to a place where people are consuming alcohol, as in don't wait until you're at the bar and then say "No," but rather don't even get into that situation in the first place. It's a common thing that's recognized through behavioral psychology. So, we've spoken about hayaa', we've talked about lowering the gaze, there are obviously a number of other things our Deen gives us to help us in this struggle that we have with our desires, and we know that fasting is one of the major things. There's a famous hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) who said, "Whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, and whoever cannot afford it should fast, for it will be a restraint (Wija) for him." We talk about people who are unable to get married, regardless of whether they have OSA or SSA or all these sort of things, and we talk about fasting. We have to realize that fasting is not just about not eating, the Qur'an tells us that fasting is to build our taqwa (God-consciousness), right? This idea that having this connection with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala helps us then move forward and deal with our lusts, using our intellect in terms of the bigger picture. And we learn from our faith that fasting is not just a fast in the stomach, it's a fast of the eyes, it's the fast of the mouth, it's the fast of the limbs, it's doing all these things to increase our awareness. It's not just about not eating, right? I'm not saying that, you know, we shouldn't feel hungry, because I know even in my family, you know, we sometimes we have discussions like "Okay, well what can I eat fur suhoor so I don't feel hungry during the day?" and I see this and go, "But we should feel hungry, as in, we should have this physical stimulus that wakes us up and that makes us realize that there is Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, that He provides for us, that we are needy on Him." This chain reaction that we should go through hunger, but it shouldn't just stop at hunger, it should be more than that, hunger should be a thing that kicks us off in terms of moving towards Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. We go through this, obviously, in Ramadan, we leave Ramadan and then we miss Ramadan because of the things that it has done for us spiritually. We've been curbing our desires for food and drink and restraining ourselves in terms of our chastity and what we engage in using our private parts. These are all things that help build our connection with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, it helps build that remembrance with Him. And it teaches us that, for something so basic that a human needs us food, you know, it teaches us that we can restrain from it for a certain amount of time, and that we have the ability to do it. Fasting is definitely one of those things that can help curb desires, if we can do it, obviously, as some people can't fast, but only if we do it with the right mindset and in the right way, right?
Exactly. Hundred percent. And so it follows that, other than modesty as Hashim was saying, and then lowering the gaze and fasting, we also have other activities that we can engage in to kind of curb those desires. We're talking from a spiritual perspective, so when we engage in thikr/remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, when we make du'aa/supplications, when we pray, when we read Qur'an, even making wudu' (ablution), just engaging in the act, it's a form of worship, making wudu'. This actually helps us curb these desires also. And Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says in Surat Al-A'raf, “And if an evil suggestion comes to you from Satan, then seek refuge in Allah. Indeed, He is Hearing and Knowing. Indeed, those who fear Allah - when an impulse touches them from Satan, they remember [Him] and at once they have insight” (7:200-201). So it's like, we are all tempted by this, and when we remember Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, it's like we wake up from that state, and we have insight. So it's like, we have insight once we remember Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and we are taken away from that state. So this is a very powerful reminder from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to keep in mind, inshaAllah.
Subhan Allah, subhan Allah. Leading on from that idea that we engage in thikr and remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, it kind of leads on to the idea that we need to be conscious about what we're doing with our time, right? There are times in the day when we're idle, we've got nothing to do. And you know, there's even verses from the Bible in the Book of Proverbs that say things like, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." And we all know what that's like, you know, you're bored, maybe you're going home on the tube, or something that's very difficult for me, personally, is when I finished the day, and I go up to my bedroom before bed, I kind of want for 10 minutes just to unwind. This is what happens to me: I lift up my phone to set my alarm for tomorrow morning, and then I see the notifications come up, and then I open them and then I go, "Okay, let me see what's on YouTube." This mindless scrolling, "Wait, let me see what's on Instagram." And you know how bad Instagram is, especially that "explore tab", which has like built-in intelligence to know the sort of things that you've clicked on before, so it keeps showing you the same things again. My God! It's like Satan in a tab! You know, it's so bad. And they know it, because they want to keep you on the platform, they want to sell you stuff, they're there to make money at the end of the day, they don't care about your Deen or your morals anyway. This mindless surfing of websites or just chatting on apps, you know, we should try and fill our time with useful things. So for me, the thing I did to counter that is "Okay, well before bed, let me read some Qur'an instead. Let me fill that time with something good and something beneficial, because that can only lead to something better, right?" So, now I try and set my alarm as soon as I get home from work, and then I make sure that before I'm going to bed, I don't need to pick up my phone anymore. I can just read some Qur'an instead. So, substitute better things for the worse. We know the Qur'an says things like "repel evil with that which is better" (41:34). So substituting this mindless scrolling just before bed with something good like reading Qur'an, it's fighting evil with that which is best. Busy ourselves with things that are useful, sports, exercise, reading, learning, gaining knowledge, even if it's socializing in a halal way, you know, hanging out with good friends, visiting family, these are all forms of 'ibadah, maintaining these connections, volunteering, working, studying, charity, supporting others, or even like you said in the previous point about connecting with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. You know how, and I'm sad to say this, sometimes you're just not in the mood to look at something too deep. Sometimes you just want something light and just something just to wind down, and maybe you're not ready to read a heavy du'aa about things. I get in these moods and I'm like, "Okay, well, what's the best thing I can do? Okay, let me at least watch a David Attenborough documentary or something like that, let me at least, you know, look at Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala's creation in a way that's not too taxing on me, and maybe I'm not ready to read the Qur'an tonight, but actually let me still do something that's good in a way that helps me remember God in a light way even." This idea that we need to make use of our time. Quite a few years ago, I remember I had issues with, you know, internet and images and that sort of thing. And I remember sitting in my room on my laptop, and, you know, I've gone into this habit of, just before bed, I'd open up my laptop and see what was going on whatever on the internet. And I remember that there was a big mirror to my left, and I remember at one point glancing to the mirror and seeing myself, but not realizing that that was me. And I remember looking at this person sitting on the computer at 10 to 12 at night, you know, looking at these images, part of my SSA, part of the things I deal with is I constantly look at other people who I wish I was like. And I think a lot of people listening to this will be able to relate to that, it's kind of like, "I want to be him. I wish I was him. Why am I me?" That sort of thing. And I remember looking at myself in the mirror seeing this person on this computer late at night, wasting his time, thinking, "What are you doing? How is this helping you get to where you want to be? If you want to be this person that you keep looking at at midnight every night, why don't you do something about it, don't just look at his image, go to the gym, if that's your issue, go and make healthy friendships, if you're lonely, if that's the issue. Don't waste our time trying to get things in a futile way, because it's just not going to help. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has given us so many ways that we can get these in healthy channels and healthy pursuits.
As you were saying, sometimes it doesn't necessarily have to be something that is religious, but it can be all sorts of things that are healthy, that are keeping us occupied in doing healthy things, building habits, you know, sports and exercise, as you were saying, reading something useful, learning, hanging out with friends sometimes, visiting family, doing volunteer work, studying, working, supporting other people, whatever that may be, as long as we are, you know, not sitting with idle hands, right? Because that is the devil's workshop. And it follows also that, it doesn't necessarily mean that we busy ourselves just for the sake of being busy, because that also kind of backfires in other ways. But you know, sometimes we need to also be mindful and just be aware of our thoughts and what we are saying, to be aware of our emotions and feelings. And what has helped me personally, for example, I enjoy doing yoga, I do enjoy meditation. Meditation has really done wonders for me, because I sit down with myself, I have all of these thoughts and ideas racing in my head that never shut up. So I sit with myself, and I give my mind the liberty of going through all of these thoughts, and then achieving this sense of stillness, and being mindful of all of that, and then sometimes doing journaling or sometimes talking to others, and it helps me kind of ask myself the questions: What triggered those particular emotions or thoughts that are not helpful or not healthy or triggering, traumatic, whatever they may be? Why was I triggered? When? How? And so on. Many of these thoughts and emotions actually pass after some time, and they leave on their own. Particularly desires, you know, once we become mindful of them, once we deconstruct them, they lose their essence. They're demystified. And so we acknowledge their existence, but we don't entertain them. And many of those thoughts are going to leave on their own. But once we dwell upon them, and we engage with them, and again, we go through that sequence, again, things are not gonna be nice and pretty, you know.
Absolutely. And that's sort of like we were saying before about trying to catch things early and stop things from getting to a stage where they cascaded down or got to a point at which there was like a point of no return. In the same sense, if there are people that we should avoid, if there are places or things that we should avoid, I think Richard Cohen's refers to this in his stage one, don't give yourself an opportunity, if there is some place that you shouldn't go to, if it's encouraging these feelings in your heart, try and avoid these places. If there's a certain company that encourages these feelings in your heart, then try and avoid that company, and it's really important. And that's a really hard thing - I've had to walk away from a number of friendships with people who are in the lifestyle. You know what it's like, you're growing up, you're not that engaged in your Muslim community, you feel that they don't understand you. The only people that understand you are perhaps people engaged in the lifestyle, right? And you kind of reach a point where you're like, "I have to walk away from this friendship, this is not helping me get to where I want to get to." And it's scary, right? It's so scary, because you think, "I'm going to walk away from this, and I'm going to be on my own." There's this one person that I used to talk to, who used to understand me completely, and I used to be able to say anything to him, because he knew my inner, deepest and darkest secrets that I couldn't tell my family, I couldn't tell my community, this person gets it. But, you know what? If having that person in your life is leading you to not live with an obedience to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, that's not a good thing, right? And it's a difficult decision, right? It's a sacrifice that we have to make. I remember reading a book saying, "What is your Ishmael?" What is the thing that you have to give up that's keeping you from God? What price are you willing to pay to find Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. It's horrible. It's a really difficult decision to walk away from things like that, it's really scary, but Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala pulls through at the end of the day, He will give you something better than that, right? So I've never regretted it. In the long-term, when I look back, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has always substituted something much better for that. So like, I know you brother Waheed, you are in my life, as in, I've worked with you, and we have like a circle of friends that we speak to about this, and we can be completely honest with, on a level where we all understand each other and we all have the same values, right? This is something I didn't have with the friends that I had to walk away from. And you know what? Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala gave me that in place of that first thing, right? Because He knew that I needed this opportunity to be honest and to talk, but I needed people who were on the same wavelength as me. So, remember that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala always pulls through at the end of the day, on His schedule.
Exactly. Indeed, beautifully said. And it actually follows from what you said, avoiding all of these temptations and walking away from people or places or things that trigger us, and replacing them with good people, with a good supportive system. Another thing that we also need to keep in mind, that we are all tempted, we will all face moments when our desires or our thoughts or our emotions take over us. And so it's very important, and I remember Richard Cohen used to say this continuously, and you have all of these 12-step programs and support systems that also keep on saying this: When you are in those moments, reach out to your support system, reach out to your friends, reach out to your mentors, reach out to people that you trust who can help you through these moments. Do not be alone. Avoid being alone in those moments. Instead of reaching out to a pornographic website or going to do a bad habit that you want to quit, or reaching out to people that you want to leave because they're bad influence, reach out to someone that you trust, who's a good person who shares your own values. You know, in those moments, when we are tempted, triggered, we will have this desire to act out, whatever that may be - hooking up, you know, going on Grindr and looking for the next hookup or whatever.. No! Don't use the phone for that. Use the phone to actually access a friend's phone number and call them or text them and reach out to your support system. Channel all of these desires, let them all out, do not let them fester. Even if you're angry, sometimes we're really angry, let all of that anger out. Maybe write it down, because once you put them into words, it loses its value. You are letting it out of your own system. Talking to a friend, again, when we talk to friends, we allow all of these emotions and thoughts to dissipate, so that they're no longer holding us captive. So this is a very important point to always remember. Again, it's not easy, but with habit, we get used to actually getting in touch with friends. And when friends are triggered, or they're going through their own problems, they can call us, and then it's mutual, right? It goes both ways.
Yeah. Yeah. It's not a one-way thing at all. And the last thing that we want to talk about is marriage. So, marriage is a sunnah in Islam. We see this in terms of Islamic advice in general. For people with SSA, this is obviously a tricky topic, it's got a lot of nuances, and inshaAllah, you will cover this in later episodes, next season. If you have desires and have the ability to get married, both in terms of your circumstances and in terms of the way you feel, if you feel ready for it, then don't shut that door, just because you've had SSA or you currently experience them. It's something that, you know, on the support groups, it's something that it's worth talking about, especially to the brothers who, despite their SSA have gone ahead and gotten married. Get their advice. It's worked for some of them, it hasn't worked for others. But go into it with an open mind. I always tell myself and other people, "Just because you have SSA doesn't mean you can't be an amazing husband. It doesn't mean you can't be an amazing lover to your wife. It doesn't mean you can't be an amazing father to your children." You're not asked to find all women attractive. you're asked to just devote yourself to one woman, if you can, right? But then, Islamically, marriage is not a wajib (obligatory) thing, it's a sunnah thing. So, if you can't do it, then let's not close the door to it.
And with this we have come to the end of this episode. In the next episode, inshaAllah, we will be talking about spiritual awakenings and wrapping up these spiritual series of episodes in this podcast. The next episode is published back-to-back with this episode, so when you have the time, jump right in, and we will talk to you there, inshaAllah. This has been Hashim and Waheed Jensen in "A Way Beyond the Rainbow," assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta'ala wa barakatuh.