“Allāh is Subtle with His Slaves…” 
One of the deeper intents and aims of fasting is for us to learn the art of self-restraint. When Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) revealed the verse of fasting , He concluded that it has been prescribed so that we may gain piety. Now, piety comes in many different forms, but a lot of these forms share a common characteristic and that is they all entail the practice of self-restraint.
In a powerful statement made by Dhūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī, he said: “Do not argue with your Lord on behalf of your soul; rather argue with your soul on behalf of your Lord.” In our current time and era, the message we often hear and learn to adopt in our lives is a message in complete contrast to this. We are often encouraged to be bold and confident, to always seek and go after what our Nafs (self) desires and sadly, numerous are the justifications we grant ourselves when doing this. Often this leads to frightening levels of deeply-rooted arrogance, lack of humility and a complete inability to go against ourselves. This easily grants authority and power to our Nafs and naturally, it weakens our resolve, will and inner strength. When this happens, it is our Nafs that then takes the lead and governs us at every point of life. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has said,
“Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allāh has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allāh? Then will you not be reminded?” 
We may read this verse and immediately think of others, but turning the tables a little, how often have we allowed our unrestrained Nafs to make decisions for us which we then followed? How often have we submitted to it and allowed it to take the position of a god over us? Indeed, something to think about.
Ramaḍān is all about reversing this dangerous momentum. It is a time when we voluntary restrain ourselves from basic needs such as food and drink, and we restrain ourselves from our desires and anything which may lead to sin or even idle deeds of no benefit. When you starve the soul of its fuel, it begins to weaken. It then descends from the high authoritative ground it once basked in and it begins to return once again as a slave, under your authority. This will then allow you to steer it towards piety, and so at every stage of your life when you come across testing moments where you battle with your soul, this power you now have over it will allow you to always make the right decisions; decisions that are purely for Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and the goodness of our soul and not based merely on desire and the call of the Nafs.
As we train in this month, it’s highly crucial that we learn the art of self-restraint. It is not just food, drink and intimate relations that we abstain from; rather these are just primers to help us go forth because ahead of us are numerous other things which we are to abstain from in order to reach our goal: the breaking and humbling of the Nafs and the subsequent gain of piety. It’s a training ground for us to restrain ourselves from anger, arguments, and fighting. From selfishness, greed and bad desire. From lying, dishonesty, gossiping and sins of the tongue. From impatience, rudeness, harshness and bad opinion of others. In a nutshell, it’s a time to restrain ourselves from all that is bad news for our Hereafter, and the intelligent person will realise that this is not just for Ramaḍān, but it is what Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) generally wants from his believing slaves.
Finally, just as we practise self-restraint, it’s equally important that we give our soul something else to fill the void with. As the famous Arabic saying goes, “Your soul, if you do not busy it with the Khayr (good), it shall busy you with evil.” So just as you remove, make sure you are also adding and bringing a better replacement into your life by way of virtuous actions.
Let’s strive in whatever concerns the affairs of our souls so that we can develop these souls of ours and return them to our Creator in a state which pleases Him…
“O reassured soul Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him]. And enter among My [righteous] servants. And enter My Paradise.” 
- Ask Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) for piety. Ask Him to help you over your Nafs and make you a better slave to Him.
- Watch out for those testing moments in life where you have to make a choice, then always choose the way of piety and choose that which is better and will bring you relief and joy on the Day when souls are gathered.
- Utilise your fasting days and seize every opportunity weaken the soul from evil and instead strengthen it upon the good.
- Replace the evil with good. As we break away from idle chatter, gossip and backbiting, let’s instead engage the tongue in Qur’ānic recitation, Dhikr (remembrance) and good words. Likewise, as we remove bad habits from our life, let’s replace them with habits of virtue so that we are not simply starving our souls but rather we starve them from the unhealthy and feed them with the nutritious.
This article has been cross-posted from SOLACE UK. Please visit their site and support their work: http://www.solaceuk.org/
The article has been reposted and was last posted on 11 August 2012.
Notes: Al-Qur’ān 42:19  Al-Qur’ān 2:183  Al-Qur’ān 45:23  Al-Qur’ān 89:27-30
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