The Swords of Self-Discipline

Taken from Marc Manley:


I have been taking the time to re-read al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din again (as I do from time to time) and always enjoy the anecdotes and aphorisms he sprinkles throughout his prose. One in particular is from Yahya bin Mu’adh al-Razi:

جاهد نفسك بأسياف الرياضة – والرياضة على أربعة أوجه: القوت من الطعام, والغمض من المنام, والحاجة من الكلام وحمل الأذى من جميع الأنام فتولد من قلة الطعام موت الشهوات, ومن قلة المنام صفو الإرادات, ومن قلة الكلام السلامة من الآفات, من احتمال الأذى, البلوغ إلى الغايات وليس على العبد شيء أشد من الحلم عند الجفاء والصبر على الأذى, وإذا تحركت من النفس إرادة الشهوات والآثام وهاجت منها حلاوة فضول الكلام جردت عليها سيوف قلة الطعام من غمد التهدج وقلة من المنام, وضربتها بأيدي الخمول وقلة من الكلام حتى تنقطع من الظلم والانتقام, فتأمن من بواثقها من بين سائر الأنام وتصفيها من ظلمة شهواتها فتنجو من غوائل آفاتها – فتصير عند ذلك نظيفة ونورية خفيفة روحانية فتجول في ميدان الخيرات وتسير في مسالك الطاعات كالفرس الفارة في الميدان وكالملك المتنزه في البستان

“Struggle against your soul with the swords of self-discipline. They are of four kinds: little nourishment, sleeping little, speaking only when there’s a need and bearing wrongs enacted against you. Restricting your eating will be the death of unwanted passions; sleeping little clarifies ones aspirations; speaking little keeps one safe from afflictions and bearing injustices against oneself will help you obtain your goals, for there is nothing more arduous against God’s servant than to grant clemency when one is repudiated, bearing wrongs inflicted on oneself by others. And when your passions begin to stir your soul to unwanted ends and sins, and one feels delight in indulgence, unsheathe the sword of eating little from the scabbardTahajjud and sleep but little. Strike these desires with the fists of lethargy and silence until they no longer oppress you nor avenge themselves against you and you are safe from their calamities til the end of your days, having purified them of the darkness of carnal desires, so that you escape unscathed from their perilous consequences. From this point you will become pure, immaculate and radiant, subtle in spirituality, free to roam about all that is good, traversing the paths of obedience to God like a fleet-footed steed in the field, like a king promenading in his garden .”

[From Kitab Riyadhah al-Nafs – Ihya’ Uloom Al-Deen]

Garda and the Hilt of the Sword

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