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Free, Yet Enslaved

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When the issue of slavery is discussed, then generally, it is the scene of people tied in fetters and chained in shackles that comes to mind. We picture people stripped of their free will and mercilessly subjugated into submitting to the will of others.

Though slavery has been abolished internationally, it is estimated that in the world at present, there are approximately 40 million people who are living in some form of slavery or another. Out of sympathy for the pitiful plight of slaves, thousands of people toil tirelessly to try and liberate these helpless individuals from the bonds of oppression so that they may enjoy freedom in the world.

However, the reality is that apart from these 40 million slaves, there are countless other ‘slaves’ who are desperately in need of liberation. These are the believers who have become the slaves of their nafs (carnal desires). They have become so tightly bound by the shackles of their nafs that they blindly obey every whim and desire of their nafs – even if it results in the disobedience of Allah Ta‘ala. They have absolutely no restraint and cannot resist the craving and temptation of haraam and sin. They may be physically free, but mentally and spiritually, they have been completely subjugated and enslaved.

Describing such people, the eminent Imaam and Muhaddith, Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah bin Mubaarak (rahimahullah), once recited the following couplets:   

Among the severe calamities – and every calamity has a sign through which it can be recognized - is that it is observed that you are unable to refrain from that which you desire.

The one who is truly enslaved is the one who is enslaved to his nafs in obeying its carnal desires, and the one who is truly free (and liberated) is the one who is able to satiate his appetite at times, and keep it hungry (at other times. i.e. he is able to exercise self-restraint). (Siyaru Aa’laamin Nubalaa vol. 8 pg. 417).

The month of Ramadhaan has just passed, and the purpose for the believers fasting during this blessed month was for them to free themselves from the shackles of their nafs by acquiring the quality of self-restraint and discipline. Throughout the day, Muslims tolerated the burning pangs of hunger and held themselves back from halaal food – solely to please Allah Ta‘ala. For one entire month, they continued to exercise discipline, until this discipline became their second nature. No matter how hungry or thirsty they were, they did not even consider placing a morsel in their mouths or taking a sip of water before the time of iftaar arrived.

Now that Ramadhaan is over, we need to ponder and reflect that in Ramadhaan, if we were able to restrain our nafs from even that which is halaal, then surely we can now continue to restrain our nafs from that which is haraam! Just as we exercised discipline and self-restraint during Ramadhaan, we must continue making an effort to abstain from sin and haraam now that Ramadhaan is over.

Remember, it is only when we liberate ourselves from the shackles of our nafs and become true slaves of Allah Ta‘ala that we will gain freedom from Jahannum and gain admission into Jannah.