“The most excellent jihad is that for the conquest of oneself.”
This was a saying of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), our most blessed prophet. What does it mean to conquer oneself? It is when the ruh, the spirit, the soul of the body is in control of the body and the body is no longer in control. There is a lack of understanding of the reality of the ruh (soul) and it’s position in our lives, as Muslims.
As Sheikh Riyadh al-Haq of London explained in a lectured he delivered:
Allah created the angels and fused in them intelligence and created them from nur (light) and thus the nature of the angels is such that they have no needs or desires. No need for food, drink, associates, and relationships. Each angel is created for a certain purpose and all that angel does is what Allah has appointed him to do. Whatever his duty is, he will obey Allah (SWT). They do not change at all.
On the other hand, Allah created animals, the beasts. But Allah did not give them any nur or intelligence like the angels, but Allah created in them the need as well as the desire for bestial things–food, drink, relationships, the need and the urge to reproduce, the need for company. But Allah gave them no intelligence, so the animals spend life eating, drinking, associating, growing up, and dying and there’s nothing more to their lives.
In between these two, Allah has created man. And in man, Allah has given him a bit of both. Although man is made of dust, Allah has given him some intelligence, so man, on the one hand, shares characteristics with the animals and on the other hand, he shares characteristics with the angels. Allah has also given man choice and it is within man’s grasp and ability to change himself and because he can change, Allah has promised him reward for good and righteousness and punishment for evil and sinfulness. Man, according to his obedience or lack of obedience to Allah is inclined to either of the two. Either he becomes close to the angels, their characteristics, and their ways or man can fall so low, he becomes like the animals and the beasts.
But, Subhannallah, we have neglected the ruh and we have devoted our entire attention to the body, the cage, the shell. If we devote our entire attention to this body, the cage, the shell, the flesh, the bones, then there could be none more foolish than ourselves. Just as the body needs food, drink and nourishment, the ruh needs food, drink, and nourishment.
May Allah include us among those who are successful in His eyes, successful in this world as Muslims (who submit fully to Allah) and more importantly, successful in the akhirah (hereafter).
May Allah give us the taofeeq to better ourselves and may He include us among those of whom He has favored, not those who earn His anger, nor those who go stray. Ameen.