The false self (nafs) will never be satisfied; so strive with God to be near to Him. ~ September’s Theme
So much of what we do to make ourselves better may arise from a feeling of insufficiency, from negative attitudes about ourselves, from the need to feel superior to others, and from selfish desires. The reason so much of our striving yields poor results is that the striving originates in the false self, the nafs. Such striving doesn’t have the support of the Divine.
25: (43) Have you ever considered[the kind of man] who makes his own desires his deity? Could you, then, be held responsible for him? (44) Or do you think that most of them listen and use their reason? Nay, they are but like cattle – nay, they are even less conscious of the right way!
The true striving is the striving in God, striving that begins with a clear and noble intention but also recognizes our need for divine support. Recognizing our need and/or helplessness is the prerequisite for making a sincere call to the Infinite, to the Sustainer of the universes who is all mercy and generosity.
Ibn Abbad of Ronda, a 14th Century Andalusian Sufi, wrote in a letter to a student:
The mystics endeavor to make Him their companion in all their spiritual states, insofar as they are able. When God discerns that attitude in them, He is merciful by causing them to attend no longer to their own weakness or strength in whatever they undertake or leave aside. Instead He is their safeguard and protection. He guarantees their welfare and sustenance, for they are His servants and are dedicated to serving Him… Muhammad’s faith community is therefore characterized by liberality and ease…. This facilitation of every situation is made possible only through the contemplative vision of which I have spoken. God has said, may He be glorified and exalted, “He has laid no hardship upon you in religion; yours is the faith community of your father Abraham. And he has named you as “muslims” in this revelation as well as of old.” [Qur’an 22:78]… In Him alone do they move or take their rest; on Him alone do they rely; to Him alone do they raise their thoughts and aspirations…
You do not need to become someone other than who you are; you simply need to become the best of yourself as you are intended to be by the divine.
The best way to achieve your own goals is to back off from egoistic striving and instead focus on carefully seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment, with the Divine Friend as your companion in all states. With patience and regular practice, movement towards your goals will be facilitated naturally.
Shams of Tabriz said, “If you sit with the people of paradise, they help you forget the anxieties of life. They are straightforward, and they wish good to everyone. With them your inside opens in such a way that even if someone swears at you, you just laugh. And their words touch you so much that you openly weep, and yet you feel a hundred thousand joys inside, and you burst into laughter. The dance of the people of Spirit is subtle and light. Yet on the inside they are like a mountain, or like a hundred thousand mountains. But outwardly they move like a rose petal on the water.”
5: (35) O YOU who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God, and seek to come closer unto Him, and strive on His Path, so that you might attain to a happy state.
29: (69) But as for those who strive in Us – We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold, God is indeed with the doers of good.
3: (19) Behold, the only [true] religion in the sight of God is self-surrender to Him; and those who were sent revelation in the past took, out of mutual jealousy, to divergent views [on this point] only after knowledge [thereof] had come unto them. But as for him who denies the truth of God’s messages–behold, God’s accounting is prompt! (20) Thus, if they argue with you, say, “I have surrendered my whole being unto God, and [so have] all who follow me!” – and ask those who have been sent revelation in the past, as well as all unlettered people, “Have you surrendered yourselves unto Him?”