Three Stages of Eradicating Lustful Inclinations

Stage 1

The first of these stages is to prevent the heart from tending to its desires by diverting its attention. This is a voluntary matter wherein one has to use their will power. The simple method of doing this is whenever the inclines towards some beautiful woman or man and the desire occurs to gaze and stare, immediately turn one’s attention toward some person or thing that is extremely unattractive, something that is repellent to one’s sensitivity. If no such person or thing is present, draw a mental picture an extremely repulsive person. Someone who has a blighted complexion, face full of zits and pimples, blind, bald, drool dripping down their face, snot coming out of their nose. Instead of attracting people, they attract flies. Even if you have to imagine these things, do it. At least on occasions when confronted with an attractive person, use your imagination to your advantage and divert your attention. The function of one’s mental faculties from one angle is to either bring closer or to cause distaste and distance oneself from the mental picture drawn. Therefore ponder over such an ugly person so the inclination towards beauty that has captivated the heart now departs. If the inclination repeats itself, then repeat this meditation exercise. If this prescription, this form of meditation proves to be insufficient and one is constantly plagued by the slide show of beauty that flirts with one’s mind, then resort to the second stage.

Stage 2

Ponder over the fact that this beloved beauty will die one day and be lowered into the grave. In the grave, the soft delicate body will become a feast for the insects and worms. This meditation should provide an immediate fast acting but temporary cure. The cure for future desires is the abundant zikr of Allah. Along with zikr, one should think about the punishment of Allah. Thirdly, realize that Allah is fully aware of one’s condition and Allah has complete power over us. By regularly meditating on this, these evil thoughts will leave the heart. It will not be an instant exit. Therefore, do not be hasty in demanding its disappearance for a disease that is plaguing a person for decades can not be cured in a few days.

Stage 3

The third stage is when the inclination itself is uprooted and never occurs thereafter. This is that stage which is considered to be the objective by an inexperienced saalik who becomes disturbed when not attained. When assailed by desires, such a saalik considers all his efforts, all his zikr, and mujaahadah to have gone to waste. In fact at times when due to this misconception, he finds himself surrounded by desires, utters such phrases which are the epitomes of disrespect and border on audacity.

As an example, he might say, “I have been making effort for so long on this path, but no mercy is displayed towards me.” Remember such a person is depriving himself, for this is the whispering of shaitaan. It can never be an objective to remove from the root a faculty endowed by Allah for if it is uprooted, there remains no achievement in its abstinence. If a blind man says, “I do not caste evil glances at women.” What is the big deal? If an impotent person says, “I am protected from sexual urges.” What did he achieve? The achievement, mastery, and joy, is to abstain in spite of having these urges, desires and ability. The first two preventative stages have been discussed while the third is not an objective, if fact it is not permissible. One needs to take great care in desisting from this sin. Another prescription that adds strength to the former prescriptions is to on occasions whenever desires assail the heart, make wudhu, pray two rak’ats, make taubah and beg Allah to help you. Whenever the gaze falls on someone or the desire to do so occurs, resort to the above. On the first day, one will have to read many rak’ats but on the progressive days there will be a marked decrease in desire. In this manner, one will succeed in gradually replacing this sin with focusing the heart and the gaze towards Allah. The reason for all this is that the nafs finds it very difficult to offer salaat. Upon seeing the slightest pleasure derived in the wrong way, the salaat will the punishment meted out on the nafs, and the desires will decline.

Taken from a lecture entitled Ghadh-ul-Basr by Hakeem-ul-Ummah Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA)

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5 Comments on “Three Stages of Eradicating Lustful Inclinations”

  1. Ali Says:

    Assalamu alaikum Shaykh Nabeel and Shaykh Abu Yahya,

    Jazaakumullaahu khairan for your answers which I have read several times over the last week and have pondered over and benefited from and will continue to inshaAllah. Interestingly, twice have I written a response comment only to have it erased accidentally or misplaced amids the bits and bites of my computer or the cyberworld. Perhaps there is khair in that. I had thoughts and comments, but upon further reflection I feel any small benefit that might be had in complicating the matter with hair-splitting comments would likely distract from the obvious benefit and thrust of the discussion of this topic thus far.

    Please know that I appreciate very much both of your answers, Shaikh Nabeel, yours for its benefit, even in concision, and, Shaikh Abu Yahya, yours for its additional benefit and for the time and care and concern you applied in drafting it.

    On a related note, but distinct from the question of nafl Salah as a self imposed consequence for misdeed, is this question–
    Is there a distinction between my nafs and me, and if so how can I perceive that and benefit from that awareness? In the case of Salah, for example, I am a believer, and I like Salah, yet at times I can feel weighed down at Salah time and be reluctant to offer it with vigor and at the best times. I feel that that is “my” problem, not my nafs’s. I feel that if I blame that reluctance on my enemy, the nafs, and treat that enemy as the other rather than as me or part of me, I would be scapegoating, and doing so to my own detriment. I acknowledge that I have a nafs, as I have been informed of that from Allah ta’aalaa and Rasulullaah sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam; yet as a common Muslim I can’t at this time claim to know just what that nafs is, nor can I claim that I perceive a distinction between what “I” don’t like and what my nafs doesn’t like. My question, then, is this: what, if anything, should I know and understand about the matter touched on in the paragraph above in order to benefit me in this world and the next?

  2. Abu Yahya Says:

    I would like to mention some points in addition to Shaikh Nabeel’s answer, which was good mashallah… and I don’t know, maybe I’m just re-phrasing what he already said…but in answer to:

    How does one protect himself from having a negative disposition toward salah?

    1.) That negative disposition towards an ibaadah is like the example of a negative disposition of a child towards bitter medicine, which obviously comes about from the child’s naivety and lack of understanding. The child is more interested in fun, games and sweet-tasting enjoyments and does not understand the gravity and harm of his sickness. This is why he may even harbor hatred and resentment to the doctor and even his own mother for making him take that medicine.

    The same bitter medicine would be happily and readily taken in its prescribed manner by an adult because he understands that his cure lies in it, in spite of its bitter taste. And he will even express his heartfelt gratitude to his doctor for prescribing him such medicine.

    Like Allamah Busiri mentions in the Burdah:

    And the Nafs is like a child, if you leave it, it will grow up addicted to being breastfed,

    and if you wean it and train it to leave the breast, then it will do so…

    The majority of the nufoos out there are like this… so how can we expect it to enjoy and take pleasure in salah, let alone any other ibadah…

    2.) Salah and sadaqah being a penalization for the nafs is also established from the sunnah. There are many examples where the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) placed certain penalizations on the sahabah through the salah and sadaqah. Hazrat Thanwi (rahimahullah) gives some examples of this in his at-Takashuf such as, “If one of you takes an oath saying, “By Laat!” or “by Uzzaa!” then let him give a dinar in charity.”

    So maybe if we realize that this is a remedy which is established by the sunnah, that negative disposition may be remedied.

    3.) We could also observe this issue from a totally different angle. And that is the “negative disposition” being a positive thing. Huh? How is that? I say that this “negative disposition” towards that act of worship is actually what is matloob (desired), because if that action is going to be a deterrent from committing a certain sin then it will only be so if that action is heavy on the nafs.

    And the mashayikh have said, “Nafs and shaytaan abhor worship and find it extremely heavy and rigorous…the nafs because worship is against its dictates and shaytan because he does not want to see you performing good deeds…”

    So it could be said that it is not you who are finding worship negative, rather it is your nafs and shaytan. And Hazratwala (damat barakatuhum) said, “You should feel happy when your enemy is sad…”

    In short that negative disposition is not from you (because no believer will dislike worship) rather it is from your nafs and shaytan, and their feelings don’t matter to us anyways.

    4.) Another misunderstanding which has to be rectified is that it is not necessary for salah to be the coolness of everyone’s eyes, because the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) clearly mentioned that, “salah has been made the coolness of my eyes…” and he did not say the coolness of everyone’s eyes.

    This was because he was the epitome of perfected character and was even shown Jannah in his salah, so how will his prayer not be comforting to him (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam)?

    As for us, Allah Ta`ala clearly mentions, “wa innaha la kabiratun illaa alal khashi’een…” “…and prayer and patience are truly hard, except upon those possessing humbleness and complete servitude to Allah…”

    This shows that khushu` is a necessary prerequisite to attain the benefits of salah. And coolness/enjoyment/benefits cannot be attained by just anyone.

    5.) Some people who do not attain this “coolness of the eyes” and enjoyment in salah end up becoming hopeless, thinking that the purpose of salah has not been attained. Whereas it should be clearly understood that “coolness of the eyes” is NOT the purpose of salah or any other worship.

    Rather the purpose of salah is the servitude of Allah. If a person performs his five daily prayers and along with that he is performing tahajjud also, but he does not feel any enjoyment therein then he will fulfilling his duty of servitude to Allah, and inshallah will gain closeness to Allah thereby.

    But if a person is not gaining the fruits of salah such as; deterrence from obscenity and sin, spiritual enjoyment, ease in sustenance, “coolness of the eyes”, etc. this does not mean he should become hopeless and “chop down the tree because it isn’t giving fruit.” Rather he should be patient and nurture that tree and work on it and inshallah it will eventually give fruit. And even if it doesn’t… it is still a tree which provides other benefits.

    We should do what is within our control, and these things such as “coolness of the eyes” and enjoyment in worship and zikr (which is not even within our control) should be left to Allah Ta`ala. If He desires to grant us the enjoyment of worship then we will be grateful for that. And if he takes away that enjoyment, then we will not leave His worship. For we are the slaves of Allah, not the slaves of enjoyment, even though that enjoyment may be spiritual. Wallahu A`lam…(Abu Yahya)…

  3. Nabeel Khan Says:

    The idea of salat was mentioned as an example, but any other form of ibadat which is optional, for example sadaqah, can be used to attain the same goal. The negative disposition comes when a person himself doesn’t feel connected to salat. The nafs feels burdened by any form of ibadah not only salah. Salah can only really become the coolness of the eyes when a person protects their eyes from haram. The person who finds the coolness of his eyes in salah is already at such a level that he won’t have to utilize such means because he won’t be involved in such evil. Ponder over the idea of kaffarah which involves fasting. If this were to give a person a negative disposition regarding fasting, Allah would not have made it as a kaffarah. Another point to think over is that there will remain a difference in the degrees of salats and other ibadaat also. A person will not get the same feeling as he does in Ramadhan when compared to missed fasts, as compared to fasting Mondays and Thursdays. So there will always remain this difference for a beginner on the path of sulook. For a person who has already attained some level of nearness to Allah, even this form of as you have put in “self-inflicted punishment” will carry a sense of pleasure and enjoyment because the true salik will see it as a means to get closer to the real beloved which is Allah. I hope this has clarified the point somewhat.

  4. Ali Says:

    Assalamu alaikum,

    May Allah bless the shaykh and you who translate his lessons and post them. This post makes so much sense–practical, practicable advice.

    A question, though–by making salah kind of a self-inflicted punishment and choosing salah because, among other reasons, the nafs finds it difficult to offer salah, how does one protect himself from having a negative disposition toward salah? Alternatively, how can one at one time use certain salah as a deterent measure while enjoying others as the coolness of their eyes (qurratu a’yun) as rasulullaah sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam did?


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