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‘Weaning’ the Nafs

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‘Allaamah Booseeri (rahimahullah) mentions in his famous Qaseedah Burdah:

وَالنَّفْسُ كَالطِّفْلِ إِنْ تُهْمِلْهُ شَبَّ عَلٰى

حُبِّ الرَّضَاعِ وَإِنْ تَفْطِمْهُ يَنْفَطِمِ

The nafs is like a child; if you neglect (to wean) it, it will still have the love for the mother’s milk when it reaches adolescence. However, if you wean it, it will become weaned.

This couplet explains that a person’s nafs (carnal self) is like a young child. A suckling child, by nature, loves its mother’s milk. However, being a child, it does not understand that this milk is only beneficial for a short period, after which its consumption will prove harmful and detrimental to the child.

If the mother does not wean the child off the milk and instead feels sorry for the child, allowing it to continue suckling, the child’s addiction to the milk will grow with it and ultimately harm it greatly.

Similarly, when a person’s nafs has the taste for a sin or a bad habit, he sometimes ‘feels sorry’ for his nafs and thinks, “Let me commit the sin one last time. If I do this, the craving will end, and I will thereafter abandon the sin.” However, he is merely deceiving himself, as by committing the sin one more time, he is actually ingraining and embedding the sin even deeper and increasing the addiction even further.

The only solution is to ‘wean’ the nafs entirely, once and for all, without showing it any consideration or mercy. It is only when this uncompromising discipline is adopted that the nafs will become disciplined and be ‘weaned’ of its sins and bad habits. (Zubdah fi-Sharhil Burdah pg. 218)