In every human heart there are four forces battling for supremacy and dominance. Three of the four are base in nature and the fourth which if empowered is the strongest and the most pure
Nafs has been defined as “self”, “ego “(not freudian), soul, and the inner force that dictates our actions at a subconscious level, translating them to a conscious level eventually by persuasion or force.
There are four components or forces within us, three of which (base) were given to us for survival but not for expansion or elaboration into those dictating our life.
The three base forces come under the umbrella of something that the scholars have identified as Nafs e Ammara.
These three forces are:
The first is Bahemi or cow like whose primary instinct is to eat, sleep, and copulate and is satisfied with these actions.
The second base force is predatory, and this force finds most pleasure in taking other persons property, dominating others and runs on the fuel of getting power and annexing more power.
The third force is Shaytaani, or related to Satan and this force is filled with a mean streak, which enjoys creating discord between two people, two communities, or even two nations.
The fourth force……….. Which is the spiritual force is the also called the angelic Nafs, this is the force that allows us to connect with the Divine.
God Almighty placed these four forces in the heart of our father Adam (AS), our mother Eve, and their progeny. This was one way to distinguish them from other creatures. They were given a freedom of choice as to which force they wanted to foster the most, by determining what lifestyle they chose.
Thus as Ramadan approaches and Muslims prepare to battle the first three base forces of the Nafs, some succeed and many do not.
Ramadan heightens the awareness of these forces within us. Thus some of us make a concerted effort to overcome the base forces and nurture the Angelic Nafs, while others suffice by restraining from food in the day and filling up at night.
The spirituality of Ramadan lies in reigning in the wild Horse of the Nafs and gently, carefully and consistently nurturing the spiritual force within our hearts. This is best done with prayer, good deeds, consideration of others and turning away from materialism. One specific method of doing so is by actively divesting oneself of money and things that one likes, with no other motive except to please Allah (God)
It is quite a challenge for Muslims to have this inner struggle going on, dedicating time for prayer and remembrance of God, while denying oneself food and drink on very little sleep, in a remarkably secular daily schedule.
If one is successful in controlling the base forces acting upon the heart, then this allows the spiritual Nafs to grow stronger, guiding the heart towards God Almighty.
The reward of a successful Ramadan lies in the heart clarifying itself of the dominance of the base Nafs and its forces and opening up to the spiritual connection with God Almighty.
Thus during Ramadan, one recognizes success if, before, during and in between prayer, the light of His (Almighty’s) beneficence and Mercy floods the heart with happiness despite the physical cravings of hunger and thirst.
In the Quran God Almighty says:” Verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest” But that can only happen if the other base forces are restrained and allow the spiritual nafs to seek God and connect for the Barakah or the blessings to flow into the heart.
The month of Ramadan is the practice session for the Olympics of the upcoming eleven months. If the base forces are let loose after Ramadan, they can be fed and fattened to the point that they can sit on the angelic nafs and stifle it thereby cutting off all lines of communication with God Almighty. Thus eating less, sleeping less and remembering God often, in the formal prescribed manner as well as randomly in all forms and manner is the essence of Ramadan. A month of intense training for the rest of the year.
Living in the heat of the south with the long days, short nights and a remarkable lack of ambience for the restraint of the base forces, the fasting Muslim may forget the reason for fasting. In some instances all he may earn at the end of the day would be an empty stomach and a thirsty tongue.
Although all year long we spend hours choosing foods, tasting and rejecting food, having food fights, and wasting food, Ramadan for Muslims and non Muslims alike is the ideal time to make a concerted effort to control our base instincts and nurture our spiritual force which lies within every human heart.
We will know the success of our endeavors during Ramadan in connecting us with our Creator, if we forget our hunger and feel our heart fill with light and happiness.