Spiritual struggle, doing good and leaving the sinful esoteric and exoteric actions, has been alluded to as greater jihad (jihad e akbar) in classical Sufi texts.
Irrespective of the debate of it being a Prophetic quote (Hadith). Recently I came across a beautiful explanation.
Shaikh Sayyid Shabbir Kakakhel (Allah preserve him) said that the greatness here is due to the time involved in it. The jihad (armed struggle) with an enemy is for a restricted period of time and eventually ends. Whereas, the spiritual struggle is a lifelong, daily constant squabble. It ends only with death.
اندریں راہ می تراش و می خراش
تا دم آخر دمےفارغ مباش
Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) predates Islam.
Shah Wasiullah Allahabadi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘The sinners are to an extent cognizant of the mercy of Allah. Whereas the pious worshippers do not even get a random thought of Allah’s mercy. They assume and focus that they will enter the Paradise by their own efforts.
The poor sinner thinks what (efforts) do I have? I rely solely on the Mercy and the beneficence of Allah. And this (in realty) facilitates his dealing (with Allah).
And the issue with the (self sufficient) pious becomes difficult.
Respected Haji (Imdadullah mohajir Makki, Allah have mercy on him) said,
ہے عبادت کا سہارا عابدوں کے واسطے
اور عصائے آہ مجھ بے دست و پا کے واسطے’
Majales Muleh al Ummat, volume 6, page 159
A disciple of Sufi Hameed ud Deen Nagori (Allah have mercy on him) approached him and complained about the overwhelming (thoughts) by Satan (Iblees). That is, he does not allow me to pray two units of salah without causing distress and excessive random thoughts. Please, instruct him not bother me.
The Shaikh replied,
He (Satan) came to me before you came. He was complaining about your condition.
He told me to tell you to abandon the (involvement in unnecessary) worldly affairs. Only then He will not bother you. Moreover he added that if you do not abandon this and continue to desire worldly involvements then you will have to pay as he did himself. That is with his Deen.’
Suroor as sudoor wa noor al badur (Urdu translation), page 323
Hakim al Umma Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Allah have mercy on him) once mentioned:
‘Nowadays, salvation lies in keeping to oneself and associating less with people. (In this way, one will be able to concentrate on one’s self reformation and be safeguarded from the wrongs of association and company.)
I came across the statement of a pious predecessor in a book wherein he stated that when remaining in seclusion, one should not make the intention that he is doing so in order to be saved from the harms of people. Rather, he should remind himself, “I am like a snake or scorpion that can harm people and therefore I should not associate with them in order to protect them from my harm.”
How cautious indeed were our predecessors and seniors in ensuring that they did not fall into self admiration and other similar sins! ‘
(Malfoozaat Husnul Azeez pg.116 Ihyaauddeen.co.za:Saying of the pious#110)
Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) instructed,
‘O Abu Hurairah ! If you desire not to be separated from my company on the Day of Judgement and eventually enter the Paradise along with me then love me in way that you can not forget me.
And remember that if you love me then you will not abandon three things,
1. Following my example (Sunna)
2. Longing for me
3. Sending salutations (salwaat) on me excessively. ‘
Fatuhaat Makkiya, volume 37 chapter 560, page 121
A spiritual aspirant wrote,
Nowadays my condition is that unintentionally I feel a repugnance in sinful involvement.
Moreover, when I see someone involved in sinful I feel that this individual is headed towards Hell fire and I must try gently to persuade him to not to do so. I try my best and with the barakah of your supplications my efforts are not wasted.
It is humbly request that whatever is best for me (in this regards) may please, be instructed. Duas are requested.
Hakeem al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Allah have mercy on him) replied,
‘The development of repugnance from sinful involvement is a superior state (hal).
However, feel repugnance for the sinner is dangerous thing for a novice (mubtadi) aspirant. This is because most of the time reason for this is arrogance (kibr), feeling self superiority and presumption of self piety.
(Therefore) Till the attainment of a steady spiritual state (tamkeen) consider that this individual (sinner) is superior to me. Nevertheless, his involvement in sinful is repugnant (in itself). His condition is similar to soot smeared on the face of a beautiful person. This consideration combines the notion that the person is beautiful and the soot is black (and disfiguring). Similar consideration should be done for the sinner and sinful involvement.
Moreover, a novice aspirant should not be involved in forbidding others.
However, giving a lecture in general to the public (about prohibition of sinful involvement) is okay. This is so provided that no other preacher is available to do so. Proceeding beyond this is dangerous.
It is perplexing that in spite of staying here (khanqah, Thana Bhawan) you are unaware of these details.’
Tarbiyet us Salik, Volume 1, page 422-3
Shaykh Abu Ali Daqqaq (Allah have mercy on him) stood at the entrance of a church and recited,
And had it not been for the favour of my Lord, I too had been of those haled forth (to doom).
As Saffat 57
Resala e Ainiya
Being a Muslim is great blessing. We should appreciate this and thank Allah for this repeatedly. This thankfulness is a safeguard from kufr.
O Allah! I ask You for such fear which would prevent me from Your disobedience so that I may do, through your obedience, actions which will make me eligible for Your pleasure, and so that I may truly repent before You out of the fear for You, (and) be shameful in front of You, so that I place my trust in You in all matters. And I ask You for good expectations from You.
You are Perfect, the creator of nur (a faculty to differentiate between bright pious deeds and sinful dark actions).
O Allah! Do not destroy us suddenly, do not take us to task all of a sudden nor make us heedless of any obligations or advice. ‘
Munajaat e maqbool # 170, Wednesday manzil
Sayyidi wa sanadi Mufti Mohammed Taqi Usmani (Allah preserve and protect him) said,
‘The prescription for an individual’s islah has 3 components,
1. Turning to Allah (inabet illa Allah). This is by repentance from transgressions done in the past and asking assistance in doing good actions in the present and future.
2. Removing one’s self from places, conditions and situations where the likelihood of falling into sinful is possible based on past experience.
3. Developing spiritual strength to resist the temptations of nafs by having a daily routine for remembrance of Allah.
Majlis, 28 Ramadan 1437/ 4 July 2016, post Zohar, Darul Uloom Karachi
Musleh al Umma Maulana Shah Wasiullah Allahabadi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
‘As it is possible that an individual has knowledge and he does not practice accordingly, similarly it is possible that one practices (according to the knowledge) but without sincerity (ikhlaas).
Moreover, it is possible that previously there was sincerity in actions done but later it evaporates.
Shaykh Muhiyuddeen Ibn Arabi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
وقد راینا شیوخا” سقطوا
We saw many Shuyukh that fell from their ranks (as a spiritual guide due to this).
If even a Shaykh can fall (from his rank), then possibility for a mureed to fall (due to lack of sincerity) is much greater.’
Majales Musleh al Ummat ra, volume 6, page 134
We have brought some (sham) goods (deeds) of very little worth.
So, (please) give us the full measure (in return) and be charitable to us.
Surely, Allah rewards the charitable
Sayyidi wa sanadi Mufti Mohammad Taqi usmani (Allah protect & preserve him) continued,
‘Similar is the story in all of the Tasawwuf. In some quarters the method of treatment (of spiritual maladies) has been made a goal in itself.
This is the case of gathering of remembrance done aloud (ijtemai majalis e dhikr bil jaher). Remembrance (of Allah) done aloud and in a gathering are both per se permissible. However, these days in some (sufi) paths it is considered to be an essential part and without it remembrance is considered to be deficient and less rewarding.
Similarly, as an example is the case of supplicating in front of the graves facing the qibla. It is permissible per se. Moreover it is proven by Sunna of our master prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). However, when our pious-predecessors saw that grave-worshipers can misuse it for their benefit then they discouraged doing so
We consider our master Hakim al Umma Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Allah have mercy on him) to be the mujaddid (one who revives) of this era. In Tasawwuf lots of things were done as a means of treatment prescribed by masters, however, gradually (with passage of time) they became an objective in them-self. The revival of Tasawwuf that Hakim al Umma did was to state that the real objective (of Tasawwuf) is the acquisition of praise worthy moral characteristics (fadhail) and riddance of blame worthy moral characteristics (razail) from one’s self.
In reality there are various degrees of crossing the limits in Tasawwuf. Some elders prescribed as a form of treatment something for their disciples, others selected something else to be more beneficial. Then some considered this treatment to be essential (for all), others promoted them to the level of things highly desired (mustaheb) or Prophetic practice (Sunna). The problem starts from here (with this meddling in the fiqhi hierarchy of status of actions) onwards. ’
Albalagh,Urdu, volume 51, publication 6-7, (April 2017) page 71-2
“Do not be very strict on yourselves for then Allah will be strict upon you. Verily, a group of people were strict upon themselves so Allah was strict upon them. Their remnants are the (ascetic) people living in the hermitages and monasteries. [Then he quoted the verse,] ‘But the monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them.”‘ Abu Dawud
In explaining this Prophetic saying Shaykh Abdul Haqq Muhadith Dehlawi (Allah have mercy on him) mentioned that Shaykh Ahmed bin Abilhawari approached his teacher Shaykh Suleman Darani (Allah have mercy on them) and inquired that the people of Bani Israel strived with such (physical) endeavors and struggles that their skin became like old worn out leather whereas we eat, drink, clothe ourselves and live with comforts and luxuries. My heart is burdened by this luxurious lifestyle and I worry what will be its end result.
Shaykh Suleman Darani (Allah have mercy on him) replied,
‘O Ahmed! What is demanded from us (by Allah) is truthfulness (sidiq) and sincerity (ikhlas) (in our intentions and actions)
Burning and melting (with strenuous endeavors and struggles) is not demanded from us.
Good deeds performed with sincerity for ten days are better than 10 years of (physical) struggle that burns and melts (the skin).
The real objective and goal is the pleasure of and acceptance by (radha) Allah. (This can only be achieved with sidiq and ikhlaas.)
As the poet says
من لم یکن للوصال اہلا فکل احسانہ ذنوب ‘
Ashaat alelmaat volume 1, page 473 via Basariyet ki rah say taraqqi