How do you achieve asceticism in this glittery world? How do you abstain from wordily desires while you have temptations around every corner? How do you safeguard yourself while the ones that are supposed to help you are – at times – the ones that make you struggle the most?
– self discipline you say? Elaborate, give us a practical advice that works for you?
First let’s define asceticism, what is it? What did our Prophet (pbuhnhf) and Imams (as) said about it? Is there any practical examples we can follow to achieve this?
Asceticism is summed up between two phrases in the Qur’an, where Allah, most High, says, “So that you may not grieve for what has escaped you, nor be exultant at what He has given you.” Therefore, one who neither grieves about past losses nor is overjoyed about the possessions he is granted has perfected his asceticism from both sides.
Imam Ali (a), [Bihar al-Anwar, v. 70, p. 317, no. 23
And we find few hadith form our prophet (pbuhnhf) and our Imams (as) describing and encouraging us to practice asceticism :
The Prophet (sawa) said, ‘People cannot worship Allah with anything better than
asceticism from worldly pleasures.’[Bihar al-Anwar, v. 70, p. 322]
Imam Ali said, ‘Asceticism is the distinguishing characteristic of God Wary people and the natural disposition of those who turn to Allah.’[Ghurar al-Hikam, no. ]1713
Imam Ali (as) said, ‘Verily among the qualities that greatly develop one’s faith is
abstention from worldly pleasures.’[al-Kafi, v. 2, p. 128, no. 3]
Imam al-Sadiq (as) said, ‘All goodness has been placed in one house, and its key is asceticism and restraint from worldly pleasures.’[Bihar al-Anwar, v. 73, p. 49, no. 20]
The Prophet (sawa) said, ‘Asceticism is not to prohibit oneself that which is allowed. Rather it is to find that which is with Allah more secure than that which is in one’s own possession.’[Bihar al-Anwar, v. 77, p. 172, no. 8]
Imam al-Rida(as) , when asked about the qualities of the ascetic, replied, ‘He manages to still his hunger without pursuit of food, he is well-prepared for his death, and weary of his life in this world.’[Bihar al-Anwar, v. 78, p. 349, no. 6]
Imam Ali (as) said, ‘How can one renounce the pleasures of this world when
he has not yet fathomed the worth of the Hereafter?!’[Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 6987]
The Prophet (sawa) said, ‘Abstaining from the vain pleasures of this world puts the heart and the body at rest, whereas longing for them exhausts the heart and the body.’[Kanz al-`Ummal, no. 6060]
Imam Ali (as) said, ‘He who renounces this worldly life, neither concerning himself with its baseness nor vying for its glory, Allah rewards him with a gift that is unobtainable through any of His creatures, grants him knowledge without the need for learning, secures wisdom in his heart and makes it flow upon his tongue.’[Bihar al-Anwar, v. 78, p. 63, no. 155]
Allahu Akbar !
Imam Ali (as) said, ‘Abstain from the vain pleasures of this world and divine mercy will descend upon you.’[Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 2275]
Imam al-Sadiq (as) said, ‘It is forbidden for your hearts that they should taste the sweetness of faith until and unless they abstain from the pleasures of this world.’[Bihar al-Anwar, v. 78, p. 63, no. 155]
What a great hadith to motivate us! Who wouldn’t want to taste the sweetness of faith or have Devine mercy upon him/her ?
Amazing hadiths about the beauty of asceticism, now let’s look about the practical examples, how do we achieve this? I had this discussion with some friends and this is what they said:
Acknowledging your shortcomings is one of the first steps in disciplining yourself. Whoever acknowledges that he has shortcomings has started on the path to self-discipline. This acknowledgement is one of the things that make us discipline ourselves and be persistent in doing so. This acknowledgement should not put you off disciplining yourself. It is a sign of Allah’s care when a person tries to change himself and develop, as Allah says:
“Verily, Allah will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not change their state themselves” [al-Ra’d 13:11]
This 8 works for me 🙂
1- Worshipping Allah, keeping in contact with Him and submitting to Him. That is done by paying attention to doing obligatory acts of worship well, and cleansing your heart of any attachment to anything other than Allah.
2- Reading Qur’aan a great deal, pondering its meanings and seeking to understand it.
3- Reading useful religious books such as “Adab as-salat” my fav 🙂
4- Attending educational programs such as classes and lectures.
5- Making good use of your time and using it to do things that will be of benefit in both worldly and spiritual terms
6- Keeping company with righteous people and looking for righteous companions, who can help you to do good.
8- Trying to act on what you learn and put it into practice.
Such a magnificent advice! But how do we acheive it if the above options aren’t provided? The answer was :
Supplicating to Allah resorting to Him and seeking His assistance through prayers: this is perhaps one of the greatest factors in helping maintain self-control. If the slave of Allah indulges in his or her desires and surrenders to them, that leads to his or her destruction. However, if he or she strives against them, making his or her faith and piety dominate and restrain his or her base wants, he or she would gain victory in one of the greatest battlefields of Jihad. Sometimes fighting fire with fire doesn’t work. You have to be mature one in some situations. But, if the one that made you struggle without a good reason, shouldn’t be forgiven. In my opinion.
The first and most important is to live to please Allah swt and not the creation. We are oppressed by consumerism , capitalism and trends. Celebrities dictate and we obey. Companies decieve us and we comply , because The Neighbours did, or the cousins or the friends. Everything has become shallow and materialistic, because of so much spare time and technology we need subjects to discuss, which again leads us to worldliness to outdo eachother in gossip. Our fridges overflow , our bellies are distended with fat. We throw food away as if it was nothing. We stand in prayer thinling of our next meal or show or what to post on fb. We are like trees whos roots have grown into the earth , while our leaves and branches wither and nothing remains but a hollow stump , who’s roots are steadfast in the love of the World instead of Allah swt and His heavens.
Such an important point was raised by sister Zaynabya, you see, we are oppressing ourselves by allowing this world to control us, we are giving in to the temptation and just ignoring the fact that if this does anything it only makes us prisoners, while in reality we were created free, so we have this battle within us, since our innate keeps on screaming yearning for freedom but we keep oppressing it with materialistic and worldly desires and that leads us to anxiety and depression .
We are so fortunate to have Karbala, in darkest of the moments it pulls you out of everything and anything
I have to admit as a person who struggles all the time that karbala puts me back on track most of the time, what happened that day is absolutely phenomenal ! Was it the sacrifice of Abbass (as)? Or was it the strength of Zaynab (as)? Was it strong love for allah (swt) desplayed by all the family members ? Or was it the ultimate worship of Imam Hussain (as)?! Well.. I gotta tell you, remembering them sure gets me going 🙂
IMO the best and most effective way is to constantly remember death and know this life is transitory. Imam Ali (as) when speaking about the dunya always would repel it with the remembrance of death.. here i have included a mixture of two of his sermons.. hope its not too long 🙂
I warn you of the world for it is the abode of the unsteady. It is not a house for foraging. It has decorated itself with deception and deceives with its decoration. It is a house which is low before Allah. So He has mixed its lawful with its unlawful, its good with its evil, its life with its death, and its sweetness with its bitterness. Allah has not kept it clear for His lovers, nor has He been niggardly with it towards His foes. Its good is sparing. Its evil is ready at hand. Its collection would dwindle away. Its authority would be snatched away. Its habitation would face desolation. What is the good in a house which falls down like fallen construction or in an age which expires as the provision exhausts, or in time which passes like walking?
Include whatever Allah has made obligatory on you in your demands. Ask from Him fulfilment of what He has asked you to do. Make your ears hear the call of death before you are called by death. Surely the hearts of the abstemious weep in this world even though they may (apparently) laugh, and their grief increases even though they may appear happy. Their hatred for themselves is much even though they may be envied for the subsistence they are allowed.
Remembrance of death has disappeared from your hearts while false hopes are present in you. So this world has mastered you more than the next world, and the immediate end (of this world) has removed you away from the remote one (of the next life). You are brethren in the religion of Allah. Nothing but corrupt natures and bad conscience have separated you. Consequently you do not bear burdens of each other nor advise each other, nor spend on each other, nor love each other.
What is your condition? You feel satisfied with what little you have secured from this world while much of the next world of which you have been deprived does not grieve you. The little of this world which you lose pains you so much so that it becomes apparent in your faces, and in the lack of your endurance over whatever is taken away from you; as though this world is your permanent abode, and as though its wealth would stay with you for good.
Nothing prevents anyone among you to disclose to his comrade the shortcomings he is afraid of, except the fear that the comrade would also disclose to him similar defects. You have decided together on leaving the next world and loving this world. Your religion has become just licking with the tongue. It is like the work of one who has finished his job and secured satisfaction of his master.
O creatures of Allah! Fear Allah and anticipate your death by good actions. Purchase everlasting joy by paying transitory things – pleasures of this world. Get ready for the journey, for you are being driven, and prepare yourselves for death, since it is hovering over you. Be a people who wake up when called, and who know that this world is not their abode, and so have it changed (with the next).
Certainly, Allah has not created you aimlessly nor left you as useless. There is nothing between anyone of you and Paradise or Hell except death that must befall him. The life that is being shortened every moment and being dismantled every hour must be regarded very short.
The hidden thing namely death which is being driven (to you) by two over new phenomena, the day and the night, is certainly quick of approach. The traveller which is approaching with success or failure (namely death) deserves the best of provision. So acquire such provision from this world while you are here with which you may shield yourself tomorrow (on the Day of Judgement).
So everyone should fear Allah, should admonish himself, should send forward his repentance and should overpower his desire, because his death is hidden from him, his desires deceive him and Satan is posted on him and he beautifies for him sin so that he may commit it and prompts him to delay repentance till his desires make him the most negligent. Pity is for the negligent person whose life itself would be a proof against him and his own days (passed in sin) would lead him to punishment.
We ask Allah, the Glorified, that He may make us and you like one whom bounty does not mislead, whom nothing can stop from obedience of Allah and whom shame and grief do not befall after death.
So these are practical advices from every day people just like me and you, this is how we see life and this is how we approach it…
One more thing comes to mind, is when we have people who’s supposed to be helping us, are those who make it the hardest for us, how do we deal with them?
They are that little spice that makes the dish a bit tastier, you see if we understand the realty of this life we would understand the presence of such individuals, we would accept them and be strong when they increase our temptation, when we realise that this life is only a test, pleasing these individuals and caring about their opinions would be so easy to ignore! Our only aim would be to please Allah (swt) and anything besides Him would look like a mirage. So insignificant and worthless.
Allahuma sali ala Muhammad wa Ali Muhammad wa ajjil farajahum and make us worthy to be among them ya rab.