Disciplining the Soul by Ibn Jawzi (d. 597)
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Know that all the facets of mankind's disposition are for their benefit – either directly such as the desire for food, or indirectly by preventing harm, such as the capacity for anger. However, when these natural impulses are not moderated it culminates in harm. If the desire for food is excessive it leads to gluttony. Similarly when anger is uncontrolled it leads to transgression. The aim should be to achieve equilibrium of the soul, to allow the faithful to approach God without distraction.
The author addresses many spiritual diseases – such as envy, greed, uncontrolled lust, sexual desire, arrogance, gluttony, anger, stinginess, extravagance, vanity and attachment to this world. He also discusses the qualities that the seeker of God must acquire – such as love, self discipline, humility, self-criticism, improvement of character, patience and truthfulness. In a simple yet effective way he shows the wayfarers how to cure their spiritual diseases and acquire the necessary qualities for their journey to Allah.
This masterpiece has been divided into thirty chapters to facilitate the reader's comprehension. Important points are highlighted using anecdotes from the early righteous predecessors.
The author, Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 AH), was an learned scholar possessing extensive knowledge. While still young, he became known as someone who was religious and given to learning. He would not waste his time in idle activities and would scrupulously avoid any food whose source was doubtful. He was a great preacher and his fame was widespread; many people repented and accepted Islam at his hands. He was also a prolific writer and authored over one thousand works encompassing a multitude of Islamic disciplines and sciences.