1. We should remember the glory and greatness of Allah, and feel that He is too great to be sinned against as He is All-Seeing and All-Hearing. Whoever thinks of the greatness of Allah will never be at ease in committing wrong actions.
2. If we claim to love Allah, then we should not disobey Him, because of that love. A person should be obedient to the One he claims to love. Those who refrain from committing wrong action out of their love for Allah are of the highest status in His sight, as are those who worship Him out of love for Him. There is a great difference between the one who obeys Allah and abstains from wrong action Out of love, and the one who does so out of fear of punishment.
3. We should think of the blessings and favours of Allah, as a decent and noble person would never act against the one who has been treating him kindly- Only base and ignoble people do such a thing. If we think of the blessings and favours of Allah, we will realize that we should not respond by going against His commands and committing wrong action.
4. We should think of the wrath and punishment of Allah, as He will be angry with the person who persists in committing wrong action. Nothing can stand in the way of the consequences of His anger, least of all this weak slave of His.
5. We should think of what the person who commits wrong action has to lose, in this world and the next. It should be sufficient to think of the loss of iman (faith), of which the smallest amount is worth much more than everything in this world. How can anyone be willing to lose his iman in return for some brief moment of pleasure the consequences of which might last forever? In a sahih hadith, the Prophet (S.A.W.S.) said: "No adulterer is a believer at the time when he is committing adultery." Commenting on this hadith, one of the Sahabah said: "His iman wil be dragged out of him until it goes over his head like a cloud. If he repents, then his iman will return to him."
6. We should relish the idea of defeating the Shaytan and being victorious over him, because overcoming him, and our whims and desires, is a thing of joy and carries a great reward. It is like taking medicine and being rewarded with restoration to good health.
7. We should bear in mind the reward and compensation which Allah has promised to those who control their whims and desires, and abstain from that which is haram.
8. We should think of the special companionship of Allah, as He has told us: "Allah is with those who patiently persevere." (al-Baqarah 2: 153) "For Allah is with those who restrain themselves and those who do good" (an-Nahl 16: 128) "For verily Allah is with those who do right." (al-Ankabut 29: 69)
9. We should be ever mindful of death, which could come upon us at any time, suddenly and without warning
10. We should stop thinking of falsehood and bad ideas. Even if bad thoughts cross our minds, we should not let them stay, otherwise they may become hopes and wishes which we may act upon, and harm ourselves and others in the process.
11. We should gradually strengthen our religious motive in fighting whims and desires. Once we have tasted the joy of defeating those whims and desires, then our determination and willpower will grow stronger.
12. We should direct our thoughts towards contemplation of the signs of Allah which He has encouraged us to think about, whether they are in the Quran or in the universe around us. If such thoughts are constantly in our hearts and minds, this will help us to shun the whispering of the Shaytan. There is no greater loser than the one who, instead of thinking of Allah, His Book, His Prophet and his Sahabah, dwells on Shaytan and the ideas of Shaytan.
13. We should remember how short is our stay on this earth. No-one would want to feel that all he has achieved in this life is the worst kind of deeds, except a person who has no spiritual ambition, whose heart is dead and who is careless. Such a person will ultimately regret his deeds when he realizes that, far from benefiting him, they will lead to punishment. Even the person who has many good deeds to his credit will feel that sense of regret when he realizes that he could have done even more.
14. We should know that Allah has created us to live an eternal life with no death, a life of pride and ease with no humiliation, a life of security with no fear, a life of richness with no poverty, a life of joy with no pain, a life of perfection with no flaws. Allah is testing us in this world with a life that will end in death, a life of pride that is accompanied by humiliation and degradation, a life that is tainted by fear, where joy and ease are mixed with sorrow and pain. So many people are mistakenly seeking an easy life of power and pleasure in this world, but most of them never manage to achieve it, and those who do, enjoy it only for a brief time before it vanishes. The Prophets called people to an eternal life of plenty, and whoever answers their call will have the best life in this world, better than the life of kings and their followers, for zuhd in this life is true richness. This is something which the Shaytan greatly envies the believers.
Merely knowing the facts that we have outlined above is not enough. We have to strive and do our utmost to achieve our aim and attain perfection. The best way to do so is to put a stop to the habits that are controlling our lives, as these are the main obstacles which prevent us from succeeding. We should avoid places of fitnah and temptation, as the Prophet (S.A.W.S.) told us,
"Whoever hears of the Dajjal should keep away from him." The best way to protect ourselves from wrong is to keep away from anything that could lead to it. One of the favourite tricks of the Shaytan, which deceives everyone except those who are clever enough to see it, is to show a person some goodness in a wrong thing, and call him to go towards what is good; when the person gets close to it, he falls into the trap.
Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah
An abridged translation of "`Uddat as-sabirin wa dhakhirat ash-shakirin"
Translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab
© 1997 Ta-Ha Publishers, UK