One subject to which anyone who lives by the moral values of the Qur’an should attach great importance is the cleansing of the self, which “commands to evil acts” (Surah Yusuf, 53). The month of Ramadan is an important time when Muslims train their lower selves. The days of the month of Ramadan, when believers observe the obligation to fast, is an opportunity for Muslims to once again reflect on many issues concerning the moral values of the Qur’an.
Someone who wishes to purify his lower self in the knowledge that he has been created in order to serve Allah will always listen to the voice of his conscience whenever his conscience and desires conflict. A person always hears two voices when confronted by trouble or difficulty. One is the voice of his conscience, which commands altruism, courage, moral virtue and living in compliance with Allah’s good pleasure. One who heeds this voice will always choose patience and trust in Allah and will behave in a manner that is pleasing to Him. The second voice is that of the lower self, and whispers rebellion, corruption, selfishness and cowardice into the human heart. Those who heed that voice will adopt satan, who acts on people’s lower selves, as their friend and will suffer a terrible loss.
The great Islamic scholar Bediuzzaman Said Nursi devoted considerable space to this in his Risale-i Nur (the Treatise of Light), and regarded the training of the lower self as the foundation of good manners, as evidenced in the words “one who does not reform his own soul cannot reform others.”
Allah has created good and bad, gain and loss, beauty and ugliness side by side in the life of this world, and has made them all a test on the road to Paradise and Hell. The test in the life of the world is one in which the good are distinguished from the wicked, and those who listen to their lower selves from those who heed the voice of their conscience.
Believers serve our Lord by avoiding the whispering of satan and the desires of their own lower selves. They never cease following the good voice they hear inside themselves. They know that everything shown them as desirable by their lower selves is merely limited to this temporary world with no counterpart in the Hereafter. People who purify their selves in the life of this world may, inshaAllah, hope for a great salvation in the Hereafter. This end awaiting believers is revealed as follows in the Qur’an:
It is the people who are safe-guarded from the avarice of their own selves who are successful. (Surat al-Hashr, 9)
The lower self is a voice that wishes to turn people away from the good pleasure of Allah and drag them to Hell. It constantly strives to achieve that aim, and constantly whispers evil. For example, it comes up with all kinds of reasons to depict fasting, which Allah has made obligatory, as something onerous. But a devout believer will fast despite this stubbornness and pressure from his lower self. Although it is an obligation he observes for Allah, he does so with joy and hopes for his reward from our Lord alone, and feels great contentment accordingly.
Muslims hope to attain the mercy of Allah by cleansing their selves. They overcome their lower selves in order to attain the Paradise promised by Allah, and thus experience the joy and inner peace of displaying fortitude, altruism and virtue in the face of difficulty.
In the Qur’an, Allah has revealed that Muslims are pleased to live by Islamic moral values and feel deep contentment thereby, and regard any other behavior as repellent: … Allah has given you love of faith and made it pleasing to your hearts, and has made disbelief, deviance and disobedience hateful to you. People such as these are rightly guided. It is a great favor from Allah and a blessing. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Surat al-Hujurat, 7-8)