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Temet Nosce (Know Thyself)

Despite Satan’s deliberate disobedience and efforts to lead man astray, the scope of his influence is certainly limited. There are some who ‘rise above the influence’.  “…God has treasures there which are neither gold nor silver. Instead, they are men of faith who have really recognized God and they will be the companions of the Mahdi (Guided One) of Muhammad’s Progeny (‘atfs) at the end of time.” [1]

As often so, our mantra is the supplication of Faraj and emergence of the Mahdi, so as part of this verbal affirmation we must consider what it means to truly aspire to be one of these followers.

As we mentioned before part of Satan’s strategy is to beautify the material world so we are consumed and preoccupied and forget our true purpose. He incites others to criticize and demoralize those who strive on this path. But as the other traditions remind us about those who will appear on the forefront of the great struggle near end times:

“…their hearts will be like that of Iron, such that even harsh criticism/censure will not affect them. Neither they will get tired of struggle nor will they be cowards. They are the ones who rely on Allah…”[2]

Satan and his army of men and jinn know all too well that they have no power of those believe, do good deeds and who rely on God.

Satan vowed in the previous verses of Sura al-Hijr to misguide man, but then he acknowledges his limitation:

إِلّا عِبادَكَ مِنهُمُ المُخلَصينَ

Except Your exclusive servants among them.’

قالَ هٰذا صِراطٌ عَلَيَّ مُستَقيمٌ

He said, ‘This is the path [leading] straight to Me.

إِنَّ عِبادي لَيسَ لَكَ عَلَيهِم سُلطانٌ إِلّا مَنِ اتَّبَعَكَ مِنَ الغاوينَ

Indeed as for My servants you do not have any authority over them, except the perverse who follow you,

وَإِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ لَمَوعِدُهُم أَجمَعينَ

[3] and indeed hell is the tryst of them all.

So a striving believer must recognize his worth and his station whereas he is indeed a treasure of this world and God has given him a sound heart to overcome the obstacles before him with the help of God, Himself and the Ahl alBayt and Awliyah (those close to Allah (swt)).

Still he must be on his guard at all times not to fall into the pitfalls and deceptions of his “Open Enemy” [4] and this world as it mentions in Dua Kumayl:

وَخَدَعَتْنِي الدُّنْيَا بِغُرُورِهَا وَنَفْسِي بِجِنَايَتِهَا وَمِطَاِلي

And this world with its delusions, my own soul with its offenses and my delay have deceived me.

The Qur’an has also mentioned one of the ramifications of those who “forget Allah”:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنْسَاهُمْ أَنْفُسَهُمْ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

“And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget their own souls; these it is that are the transgressors.” [5]

Self-purification is the basis to attain the station of being a true believer. The prerequisite for this is knowledge of self.

Several variations of a particular tradition touch on this: ‘He who knows his self knows his Lord’.

In many drug and alcohol or other abuse programs which often follow several steps for a person to achieve success in his or her own self-development, the very first step is acknowledgment of a problem one has. You clearly cannot correct a problem which are not willing to see.

Hence, the great jihad (struggle) is the battle within to overcome our own “demons”.

In the famous work, “The Art of War,” it says:

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

One of the most pragmatic solutions to better combat the enemy is keep try to control our own circles of influence. Sit with scholars, and people of faith who remind us of our true purpose and goals.

المرء على دين خليله فلينظر أحدكم من يُخَالِل

The Prophet (s) said, ‘Man follows the same creed as his friend, so consider carefully who it is you befriend.’[6]

So, befriend comrades who will remind us of Allah when we encounter and sit with them and thus help us in our own greater struggle to be true believers.

إِنَّمَا المُؤمِنونَ الَّذينَ إِذا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَجِلَت قُلوبُهُم وَإِذا تُلِيَت عَلَيهِم آياتُهُ زادَتهُم إيمانًا وَعَلىٰ رَبِّهِم يَتَوَكَّلونَ

The faithful are only those whose hearts tremble [with awe] when Allah is mentioned, and when His signs are recited to them, they increase their faith, and who put their trust in their Lord,[7]

Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host a series on “Refinement of the Self” by esteemed guest columnist and scholar from Qom, Shaykh Husayn El-Mekki. His column will focus on interrelated topics ranging from akhlaq, ethics and morality as an all-comprehensive approach for character refinement based on Islamic teachings. For past articles in the column see here.

[1] Imam Ali (a.s.), Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 14, p. 591

[2] Bihar al-Anwar (Vol: 60, Pg. 216)

[3] Holy Qur’an, Chapter 15, verses 40-43

[4] Holy Qur’an, Chapter 2, verse 168

[5] Holy Qur’an, Chapter 59, verse 19

[6] Amali al-Tusi, p. 518, no. 1135

[7] Holy Qur’an, Chapter 8, verse 2

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About Shaykh Husayn El-Mekki

Shaykh Husayn El-Mekki received his Masters degree in Islamic studies at I.C.A.S. (Islamic College for Advanced Studies) and completed Islamic courses at the Islamic Seminary of Qom. He has spoken at numerous Islamic centers and university campuses due to his relatability with the youth, exceptional Islamic knowledge and public speaking skills.

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