Imam Shafi’i said: ‘I learned two things (kalimaat) from the Sufis: Time is a sword, if you do not cut it off, it will cut you off; and the nafs, if you do not preoccupy it with good, it will preoccupy you with evil.’
Taken from Imam Zaid Shakir’s class on Purification of the Heart
Quote and photo contributed by Lena Zohny
I read this and sat, stunned, for several minutes. How could something be so obviously true, yet we remain so oblivious? Time passes. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day, it goes. There goes an opportunity to read the word of Allah (swt). There goes a moment to praise the Prophet (saws). The time goes, and it cuts across our path to the Beloved (swt).
And then there’s the nafs. Good ol, dependable, reliable nafs. Dependable and reliable in the sense that it will do anything to waste time, of course. My nafs likes to obsess. Me, I like cats. Have I mentioned that? So my nafs takes this love and runs with it, all the way to the end zone for a 80 yard kickoff return. Cats become all I think about. Everything, including Allah (swt) gets put to the side. Now, cats in and of themselves are not evil. But leaving Allah (swt) in favor of cats? That is evil.
As Sh. Husain recently said (which is really a whole nother post all together inshaAllah, but here I’ll paraphrase) – the soul does not need the earthly to thrive. If you feed it the dunya, it will wither and die. If you feed it from the other world [UmmS – forgot the term here], it will grow.
You would think I would learned, having fallen into these obsessive, time wasting fixations in the past, but no. My soul continues to wither on the vine.
So now, time meet the sword of time with the sword of ibadah. Time to take the ibadah and occupy the nafs.
Yes, I will still love kitties. Yes, I will still volunteer. But inshaAllah I will remember why I’m doing this. The Prophet Muhammad (saws) is reported to have said:
The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth, and He Who is in heaven will show mercy unto you (Suyuti).
So still enjoy your passions. I’ll continue to love my cat (don’t worry, the weekly squeaky will not be going away). inshaAllah, I’ll start volunteering soon at a no kill shelter. But I’ll do it for the sake of Allah (swt), to be thankful and grateful for the mercy He has shown me, instead of for my nafs.