Dear Believer Series: The nafs is like a child

Dear Believer,

I read this during some of my studies today,

“The nafs [ego] is like a child. If you allow it to grow [unchecked] on its love for breastfeeding [it will continue as such]. And if you wean it, it will be weaned.”

Try to look past my dismal translation and understand the point of the poet. If you want to learn how to gain control of your nafs, this is the solution.

You have to begin weaning it off of the various things that fill it. It’s no coincident that the nafs works like a child. I have a question, what happens when a child doesn’t get what it wants? It throws a tantrum, and so too does your nafs. When you first begin to discipline it and to explain that it isn’t allowed to have whatever it wants, whenever it wants, it will rebel. It will scream, it will say “no,” and it will frustrate you until you become weak and decide that this will be the last time, just once more won’t hurt.

Then it will come to realize that all it needs to do is kick and scream until you eventually budge.

But what if I told you that discipline isn’t the only way? That along with discipline comes showing the child that there exist a variety of foods that are mouthwatering as well. That with patience you may treat them to something great. That you’ll make them their favorite dish and allow them to have their fill.

What if you allowed your nafs to have its fill, but you gave it what it needed to reconnect and stay connected to the Divine?

Is this to say that you won’t regress at times? Of course you will! There will be times you’ll just want to feed it what it wants to keep it silent. Those moments where you feel overwhelmed, tired, and sick of fighting. But those times won’t be the norm any more.

So will you begin to wean your nafs, or feed it until it’s spoilt?

Your brother,

Arthur K. Richards


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