In the Qur'an Allah reveals a very important truth:""You will not attain true goodness until you give of what you love." " (Surah Al 'Imran, 92) Self-sacrifice, one of the basic moral qualities that allows people to attain real goodness, can enable individuals to give up, happily and without a second thought, all that they own, love, and value. When necessary, they will endure every difficulty and exert all of their energy for the sake of their values and loved ones. When faced with choosing between their own advantage and that of their loved ones, they will forego their own benefit and make the greatest physical and emotional sacrifice that they can for their loved ones.
All people are created with negative moral tendencies that direct them toward selfishness and egotism. If one's lower self is not trained, this selfishness will take control of one's moral character. Generally, such people think first - or even exclusively - about themselves. They always want the best of everything and expect to be treated with understanding and kindness. When difficulties arise, they expect others to take risks for them and support them at the cost of their own advantage. They always want to protect their own interests and comfort. When faced with adversity, they renounce whatever they value for the sake of protecting their interests and avoiding any harm to themselves. Allah describes the extent of this selfish passion:
Truly humanity was created headstrong – desperate when bad things happen, begrudging when good things come. (Surat al-Ma'arij, 19-21)
People can overcome their lower self by understanding belief in Allah and practicing the Qur'an's moral teachings. Those who grasp the truths revealed in the Qur'an and understand the morality that Allah has laid down for humanity are always able to sacrifice for others. Allah says that those who master their lower self will attain salvation in this world and the Hereafter: "The people who are protected from the avarice of their own selves are successful." (Surat at-Taghabun, 16)
Allah created the human conscience to help people avoid evil and practice the morality that pleases Him. The conscience always warns against evil and shows the way to goodness. The deep love for Allah and strong fear and respect for Him that reside in the believers' heart prevent them from being overcome by their lower self. They know that the main reasons for their existence are to win Allah's favor and to conduct themselves in ways that earn His good pleasure. They know that this earthly life is very short and that they have to work to attain success in the Hereafter. They do not forget that all of this world's benefits are transitory and that one day they will stand in Allah's Presence and account for their life. They are aware that those who pursue their own interests here, instead of trying to attain Allah's favor, mercy, and Paradise, will suffer eternal agony. In addition, they know that Allah will reward their self-sacrificial moral character with good things in this world and incomparable eternal blessings in the Hereafter:
Those who do good will have the best, and more. Neither dust nor debasement will darken their faces. They are the Companions of the Garden, remaining in it timelessly, forever. (Surah Yunus, 26)
So Allah gave them the reward of this world and the best reward of the Hereafter. Allah loves good-doers. (Surah Al 'Imran, 148)
If anyone desires the reward of this world, We will give him some of it. If anyone desires the reward of the Hereafter, We will give him some of it. We will recompense the thankful. (Surah Al 'Imran, 145)
However, self-sacrifice is far more than just giving part of one's possesssions to someone in need. For believers, it is a way of life that comes from the strength of their belief, pervades their whole life, and requires that they sensitize themselves to their surroundings. This involves feeling a sense of personal responsibility for social problems and trying to solve the problems of oppressed and needy people. Rather than thinking that the rich and powerful will take care of these problems, they consider it a moral imperative and a demand of their conscience to get involved, for being a virtuous person means to act in the knowledge that every believer who listens to his/her conscience and fears and respects Allah has a responsibility:
"Would that there had been more people with a vestige of good among the generations of those who came before you, who forbade corruption in the land, other than the few among them whom We saved. Those who did wrong gladly pursued the life of luxury that they were given and were evildoers. " (Surah Hud, 116)
This book will examine the nature of self-sacrifice from all of these angles. We will see that self-sacrifice is a moral virtue that must dominate a believer's life and that it must be lived in its totality to win Allah's favor. Basing their life on this strong understanding, believers strive toward what is good and thus serve as examples of this goodness both in this life and the Hereafter.
Some people avoid self-sacrifice, preferring this world's transient benefits to winning Allah's favor. But sooner or later, they will suffer great loss in both worlds. Thus, this book will stress the importance of this fact and call upon all believers to follow their conscience and lead lives of self-sacrifice. As Allah states in the Qur'an:
"Say: "My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds." " (Surat al-An'am, 162)