It stood gracefully on a shelf of an antique wooden cabinet – a showpiece in the shape of a heart bordered with Swarovski diamonds. Its many edges, cut with the utmost precision, gave it an additional dazzling shine that captured the eyes of visitors. Even though it was just another piece picked out of many from a crystal gallery, it had an air of superiority among the other artifacts that it was placed with. Its new surrounding was rather too rusty for a heavenly thing like it to reside.
The blessed owner of that marvel, who had received it as a gift, regularly polished it for he feared that its sparkle might fade away someday. He was so fond of the showpiece that a passing glance at it roused happiness in him. Its lustrous beauty left him mesmerized and made him shower gratitude on the one who had gifted it to him. However, as with most things in this world, the owner’s concern for his gifted possession began to fade away with time. Ignorance began to descend on him as subtly as specks of dust settled on the sparkling crystal piece.
Now, though the showpiece still exists, it no longer dazzles. Rather, it is hardly identifiable and is well camouflaged in the dullness of the room. Suffocating under layers of dust, ensnared in fragile cobwebs, it lies abandoned in the dark.
The story of the showpiece and its owner is analogous to a significant character in the story of our lives – our souls. Allah (glorified and exalted is He) has gifted each of us with a soul. A gift so sophisticated and heavenly that it is well beyond the realm of observation and understanding in modern science. Our souls are the primary means for our very existence, for our life. They are our essence, accompanying us throughout our lives from the time it is breathed into the embryo developing in our mothers’ wombs till our last breath. As Allah says in Surah Al-Shams, verses 7 and 8, He inspired it with the knowledge of right and wrong: “And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it. And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness.”
We are born upon the fitrah, free from sins and shining from the very start. However, our surroundings play a paramount role in molding our personalities. In the time and age we live in, immorality has become rampant among the young and old alike, people easily stray away from the straight path, and one is mocked for enjoining good and forbidding evil. Consequently, the struggle with one’s soul has become extremely challenging. Such is the extent of evil. The accursed Shaytan has vowed to lead people astray, saying: “… I will surely make [disobedience] attractive to them on earth, and I will mislead them all” (Surah Al Hijr, 15:39).
The soul of a weak believer is easily lured by Shaytan and moreover, it instigates oneself towards evil and is therefore called the commanding soul or nafs ammarah. It is the soul ignored by its caretaker, dulled in his or her eyes by time. When a person neglects his soul, it gives in to its lowly desires, unwary of the warnings, and ultimately leads to self-doom. For most of us, we find ourselves constantly at war with our nafs, that is, our soul wavers between doing good and doing evil. Nafs lawwamah is at work here, vehemently reproaching itself for committing sins and resolving to compensate by doing good deeds. Then there are those believers who, in every aspect of their lives, strive to please Allah alone. They fulfill the obligatory acts with sincerity filled to the brim and hasten to perform voluntary deeds thereafter. At most times, such a soul remains impervious to the evil that exists in the atmosphere. It is at this level that tranquility and peace descend upon the soul and it reaches the peak of satisfaction known as nafs mutma’innah. An diamond, after all, does not need an audience to shine – only its Creator. In this way, Allah (glorified and exalted is He) counters the haughty claims of Shaytan to detract the believing servants from the Straight Path, stating that his efforts would be in vain: “Indeed, over My [believing] servants there is for you no authority. And sufficient is your Lord as Disposer of affairs” (Surah Al-‘Isra’, 17:65).
Whatever level our soul may be at, it is vulnerable to being specked by dirt at all times and everywhere, very much like the diamond, regardless of where it rests. We may not see it, but slowly and stealthily evil may creep into our souls and into our hearts. Being affected by evil is inevitable. Yet, there is hope. The Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Every heart has a cloud covering it, with the similitude of a cloud covering a shining moon. It suddenly becomes dark when the cloud covers, but its brightness returns once the cloud has passed” (recorded by at-Tabarani and graded reliable by al-Albani).
The purity of our soul will return once its evil is removed. Even if we find ourselves drowning in our own sea of sins, the doors of Allah’s Mercy are wide open. We must repent sincerely and resolve to stay firm in our obedience to Allah. The tears of repentance that flow from our eyes will wash away the dirt, and remove all the impurities leaving behind a sparkling soul full of piety. As Allah (glorified and exalted is He) says, “He has succeeded who purifies it (the soul), And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]” (Surah Ash-Shams, 91:9-10). The diamonds of our souls are implanted somewhere deep within us. We must dig within ourselves to find that diamond in the rough.