Will you give information about educating/training the soul? How can we get rid of the attitudes and habits that we do not want like hatred, enmity, envy, jealousy, inferiority complex and despair?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Educating/training oneself by controlling the good and bad talents that one has by birth with his own will, improving his good talents by using them and curbing his bad talents is called educating/training the soul.

The following is stated in the Quran:

“By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;― Truly he succeeds that purifies it― And he fails that corrupts it!” (ash-Shams, 91/7-10)

The Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Do not give up truthfulness; truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. Avoid falsehood; falsehood leads to evil, and evil leads to Hell.” (Bukhari, Adab, 69; Muslim, Birr, 105)

The meaning of this training is refining, which resembles refining ores.

As it is known, almost no mines are found in a pure state. Each mine is mixed with soil, stones, slag and other substances. In order to obtain pure metal and, for instance, gold, iron or gasoline, the solid ore is melted in blast furnace and petroleum is refined in the refinery. More precious ores melt at higher temperatures and more precious petroleum products like aircraft fuel are refined in a higher rig.

Higher spirits are purified through bigger tests that necessitate greater will.

The following statements of the Prophet (pbuh) mentions it:

“The people who are most prone to trials and misfortunes are prophets, then saints and then believers based on their degrees.” (Bukhari Marda, 3; Tirmidhi, Fitan, 575)

In people, the ability to do “good deeds” and “bad deeds” are naturally in the same place, so to speak, they are in a mixed state like the stone, soil and tar in the ore.

Man needs to purify himself by fulfilling the assignments given to him, facing the misfortunes hitting him by patience, thanking God for the boons he receives and refraining from the illegitimate and forbidden things that his soul desires; he needs to meet his Lord by training and purifying his soul.   

Training the soul means to train one’s inner world. Man’s inner world has various states.

There are some people whose inner worlds are inclined to evil things like lies, tricks, forbidden things and injustice. They always want such bad things. All of their motives are like that. A person whose inner world is like that never repents of the bad deeds he commits. On the contrary, he looks for opportunities to commit similar bad things. Such a person is not expected to return from the bad way unless he changes his inner world.

In religious terminology, this state of the inner world is called “nafs al-ammare”, which means “the soul that always wants bad things and tries to commit bad deeds”. This state is in question for any person who has not received a good education. As long as a person remains in this state, he will spend his life by doing bad deeds or seeking bad deeds.

There are also some people who do bad deeds from time to time. However, such a person regrets after doing such a bad deed. He condemns himself by saying, "Why did I commit this bad thing? I should not have done it." He decides not to do something like that again.

However, after a while, he falls into the same or similar mistakes; he does bad things. Then, he regrets again. This goes on like that.

In religious terminology, such an inner world is called “nafs al-lawwama”, which means “a soul that condemns itself”. This state is one level higher than the previous soul; a person needs to ascend to at least this level in order to get rid of his bad habits.

Man can make mistakes and commit sins. However, he should, at least, pull himself together after committing a bad deed and regret. A person who does not regret the bad deeds he commits is not expected to abandon his bad habits and find the true path. However, a person who regrets is expected to find the right path sooner or later. 

There are also some people whose inner worlds are inclined to do good deeds, act honestly, be careful about halal and haram, act chastely, honorably, and have good manners unlike the inner world we have explained in the first level. They always want to do such good deeds.   

Such a person wakes up to be cleaned and to perform prayers. He goes to work and tries to do his duty in the best way. When it is time, he has lunch, dinner, etc. and worships. When he speaks, he tells the truth. When he makes a promise, he keeps it.   When he sees a needy person, he tries to help him as much as he can. He does not hurt anybody. He does not backbite anybody. He regards the rights and wealth of others as his own rights and wealth; he regards the chastity and honor of others as untouchable as his own chastity and honor and even more blessed.  

He helps his relatives and the poor by giving them zakah (alms), fitrah and sadaqah. He donates money to charity to build mosques, schools, hospitals, roads, fountains, etc. for the places that need them if he can. In short, as soon as he finishes, a good deed and charity, he wants to start another. Even if he cannot do them, he lives with the desire to do them.   

In religious terminology, such an inner world is called “nafs al-mulhima”, which means “the soul that inspires good deeds”.

A person with an inner world at one level higher does not only want to do good deeds but also finds peace in good deeds. Good deeds and charities are like the air and water of his inner world. He thinks he cannot live without good deeds like fish that cannot live outside water.

In religious terminology, this level of the soul is called “nafs al-mutmainna”, which means “the soul that finds peace in good deeds and charities”.

The further levels are “radiya” and “mardiyya” levels; in these levels, man does not only find peace but also is in full contentment by comprehending the concepts of good deeds and charity. This contentment leads them to the contentment and consent of the Creator. In this level, Allah is pleased with His slave and the slave is pleased with Allah.

These inner world levels are not the unchangeable fate of anybody. On the contrary, everybody is created with the ability to pass beyond these levels and they are held responsible for it. These levels of maturity are passed if man trains himself. Religions and prophets show people these targets and the way to reach them.

When the ethical principles shown by philosophers and clever people are considered, it will be seen that those principles also tend to reach those targets.

What we need to do is to learn them first, to adopt them as targets and to tend sincerely toward the deeds and attitudes that will lead us to those targets as much as we can.

To regard daily prayers, fasting, hajj, zakah, in short, worshipping, cleanliness, honesty, helping and charity, in short, high ethics and to try to do them as much as we can, to regard lies, tricks and haram things as forbidden and to avoid them are among the remedies that will train and develop our inner world.

Questions on Islam

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