(Keywords: Good and Evil, Struggle against the self, Struggle against Satan, Enmity with Satan, Control of the Self, Desires and Temptations, Satan’s ploys, Satan’s plots, Devil’s scheme, fear of God, Piety, the True Path)

قال الله عز وجل: { وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ}. ـ

God the Exalted- says: { And those who strive for Us, We will surely guide them to Our paths.  And verily, God is with the good-doers} (Surah Al-Ankaboot, verse 69).


عن فضالة بن عبيد رضي اللَّه عنه قال: سمعتُ رسولَ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم يقول: « المُجَاهِدُ مَنْ جَاهَدَ نَفْسَهُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ» .  رواه أحمد والترمذي وابن حبان. ـ

Narrated Fudalah Ibn Obaid -may God be pleased with him- said: “I heard the Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him- say: ‘The Mujahid (the struggler) is the one who fights himself for the sake of God -the Almighty.’ ”  Related by Imam Ahmad, Al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Hibban.

وعن أبي هريرة رضي اللَّه عنه أَنَّ رسولَ اللَّه صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم قال: « حُفَّتِ الجَنَّةُ بَالمَكَارِهِ، وَحُفَّتِ النَّارُ بِالشَّهَوَاتِ» .  رواه مسلم والترمذي وأحمد. ـ

Narrated Abu Hurairah -may God be pleased with him- that the Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him- said: “Paradise is surrounded by hardships, while Hell-Fire is surrounded by temptations.”  Related by Imam Muslim, Al-Tirmidhi, and Imam Ahmad.



One of the hardest forms of mujahadah or struggle is  Mujahadatul-Nafs or struggle against the Self.  So what is Mujahadatul-Nafs?  And how is it achieved?

Part of the human nature is that the Exalted Creator has put into him certain instincts through which he can survive and continue to live in this world.  God –the Exalted- with His All Wisdom has made these instincts in the human on two fold.  If these instincts are used moderately and justly according to His rules, then they are a blessing.  But if they are used excessively or unjustly by breaking His rules, then they become a curse, a reason for punishment, and a cause to enter Hell –may God save us from it.

There are many instincts, but let’s talk about only four:

First, the instinct of hunger.  In order to continue to live in this life, we must have hunger.  There are two groups of people regarding hunger.  One group tries to fill its stomach any way possible whether it is haram or halal (permissible or forbidden).  They just want to fill their stomachs without any care for the source.  The other group considers carefully what they eat; they only eat halal food and avoid haram.

Second, the instinct of money.  Most of the people need money to live in this life.  Possessing money and trying to earn it is an instinct.  One group does it unjustly, by trying to earn money by any means, whether it is riba (usury) or lying or cheating or stealing.  As long as they can get the money the source is not important.  While the other group only seeks halal money, and avoids all doubtful sources of income.

Third, the instinct of power and wealth.  One group wants to gain all things; houses, cars, clothes, to be rulers.  And they don’t care how they get it.  They get angry, they get greedy, they get envious, they deceive, all that is important is that they get those things.  The other group aspires to those things but they control themselves and are content with minimal things and that only through halal or permissible means.

Fourth, the instinct of lust (shehwah).  This instinct was put into the humans so that they could have children and this world would continue on.  If there are no children then humans would become instinct.  So the wisdom behind this instinct is the continuation of this world.  One group is busy with their lust illegally.  They look at other women, they contact women through illegal means, and they call women to abandon their shyness and encourage them to disrobe.  The other group only seeks what is permissible.  They get married, they avoid looking at other women.  And if they can’t get married, then they fast and try their best to guard themselves.

Satan gets to the son of Adam through these instincts and others.  He whispers and excites him by urging him to act upon these instincts excessively and through wrong means.  So sheitan uses these instincts for his advantage, and the human can fall easily if he is not wary.  For there are two enemies against him in this case; Sheitan and the Self.  But the Muslim must bring in his righteous self and seek the help of God.  We seek refuge with God against both the self and sheitan.


So we see the same instinct, but two groups of people in each one of them.  One group follow their desires and give reign to the Self.  They allow the self to control them and dictate its wishes on them.  So they become slaves of the self.  They are busy with its endless wishes, and are lost in its misleading paths.

While the other group control the Self.  They are wary of it.  They don’t allow it to get out of control.  Yes, they have those instincts too, but they look for legal ways to fulfill them.  They are concerned with the Hereafter, so they don’t allow the Self to dictate to them, they don’t follow their desires, rather they try to follow the rules of deen.


So Mujahadatul-Nafs or struggle against the self means how well you control the Self.  How much do you give in to your desires.  In one day, how many slips and falls you have.  And if you have committed a sin, do you make tobeh and istighfar (repentance) immediately.

Ittib’a Al-hawa or following the self means how many sins you plan to do today, how many misdeeds you have already done today, and how many you plan to do tomorrow.  For example, you think tomorrow I will watch that bad film, Or I will go to the market unnecessarily, or I will do this gheebah, or I will do this sin or that sin.

Mujahadatul-Nafs means you stop the Self right then and there, seeking refuge with God, and thinking of the punishment in ‘akhirah or Hereafter.  Mujahadatul-Nafs means that if you have done anything of that, you immediately repent and make tobah and istighfar, show regret and sadness and promise not to do it again.  So you do not allow the self to rule over you.


Mujahadatul-Nafs is an on-going process.  It is a life-long process.  It is an ever-struggle that you have to keep fighting every hour, every day, every week, every month, and every year until your death.  You may not win all the battles, but you have two powerful tools: tobeh and istighfar (repentance).  And you have two powerful means: fear of God’s punishment, and hope of His great reward in Paradise.

And whoever continues to struggle most of the time, then God –the Exalted- would accept it and make him victorious at the end, as mentioned in the verse above.  That is a promise from God, it is just that we must start and try our best.



Then, a Muslim should always make mujahadatul-Nafs or struggle against the self and oppose the evil-tempting self.  He should be wary of its temptations, its desires, and its traps.  He should seek the help of God, and try his best.  And if he ever slips, then he should repent soon and get to the right path.