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Ramadan Reflection ( Part 5 ) - Killing the ego


Written By: Ajmal-Masroor
18/07/2013 13:40
Religion & Culture

The ego is only interested in I, me and mine. The ego is only concerned with self-interest. The ego is obsessed with myself. It is blinded by want. As long as I and me get what is mine the ego is happy. It is intoxicating and it clouds judgments. The ego does not tolerate thinking about anyone else. It makes me feel jealous if it is anyone but me. 

The ego is hard to define and it varies from person to person. It is constructed from fake self-image. This mental construction of our “self” is artificial. It is responsible for causing a lot of emotional drama in our life. It is also responsible for a lot of misery. Self-esteem and honour are not the same as the ego. Self-esteem and honour are positive attributes and guaranteed by God for all human beings. For God says in the Quran: 

“We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favours, above a great part of our creation.” (Quran 17_70) =

God has condemned the Ego. 

The ego could make you believe you are more important than anyone else around. It may make you believe that nobody likes you. The worst type of conceit is when you start thinking that you are better than others. It is the lowest dimension of human's inward existence, his/her animal and devilish nature. 

In a nutshell the ego is an illusory concept of self that has been inflated beyond any reality.

You will find taming your ego the hardest challenge. It would refuse to be rectified; it would make you behave stubborn, arrogant, proud, envious and angry. It is the main cause of Iblis’s (Shaytan) demise from the heavens. We find the conversation between God and Shaytan in the following verse of the Quran: 

“Yea, indeed, We have created you, and then formed you; and then We said unto the angels, "Prostrate yourselves before Adam!" - whereupon they all prostrated themselves, save Iblis: he was not among those who prostrated themselves.

(Allah) said: "What prevented you from bowing down when I commanded you?" He said: "I am better than he: You created me from fire, and him from clay." 

(Allah) said: "Down with you, then, from this [heavenly state] - for it is not befitting for you to show arrogance here! Get out, then: verily, among the humiliated and lowest you shall be!" (Quran - 7:11-13)

The ego of Iblis came on the way of him accepting God’s orders. He felt his judgment was better than God’s. He thought he was superior to the new creation of God. He was envious of Adam’s intellectual prowess. All this time the Jinn species, the origin of Iblis, were the sole beneficiaries of this world but now that God created a more intelligent species with inherent capacity to distinguish between right and wrong and a conscience that protects them from spiritual and physical harm, he felt extremely jealous. His ego took control of him and he rebelled against God. His rationale was that his origin is fire and Adams origin is clay. Fire is better than clay. The consequence of arrogance was eternal damnation for Iblis. 

In Islam the word “Nafs’ in some context has been translated as the ego. Nafs also means the self. When the tribes of Israel were punished for taking a calf as a deity to God, they were reprimanded severely. In the following verse we find:

“And when Moses said unto his people: "O my people! Verily, you have sinned against yourselves by worshipping the calf; turn, then in repentance to your Maker and kill your egos; this will be the best for you in your Maker's sight". And thereupon He accepted your repentance: for, behold, He alone is the Acceptor of Repentance, the Dispenser of Grace” (Quran 2:54)

The order to kill their ego was directly interconnected to their erroneous actions and this was noted as the only way to repentance. In our life the same applies, if you are full of yourself and obsessed with your self-importance, you will never find God. But you if you can kill your ego you have attained piety. 

Many people, who deny the existence of God think that they know it all and have the capacity to control all aspect of their life, independent of God, equally demonstrate the grip of ego in their life. They feel arrogant of their brainpower and ingenuity. Their achievements delude them from the reality of who truly is in control. The ego is their best friend in the path of conceit, which will lead to their downfall both in this world and the hereafter. 

There are those who believe but also have a huge ego that clouds their commonsense. I often classify the believers with a huge ego in three categories: 

1. Learned egoist: This is the person who is very knowledgeable on matters of spirituality and material yet their ego prevents them from being consistent in their practice. They preach to the world one thing but in their life practice the opposite. They long for praise from other people and crave worldly recognition for their intellectual competence. 

Their turban, cloak and prayers beads ooze nothing but extreme bigheadedness. Their oratory deludes people. Their beards, scarfs and external symbols fool many people to think that they are genuine. They like having their followers carry their cloaks and kiss their hands. These people may be knowledgeable but their knowledge has not reached any further then their lips. For such people there is much misery in this world and the life to come. 

They are keener on spin than substance. They are hooked to celebrity status and love to show off their knowledge on the TV and internal sites. They may be knowledgeable but their ego is in control of their intellect. Such people are difficult to change but if they see the truth and it strikes the right cord, they change for the better. They can also change others profoundly. 

2. Confused egoist: This is the person who has little knowledge on some matters and no knowledge on other. They confuse their cultural habits and religious instructions. They attribute their personal failures to religious experiences. They behave like parasites, living off other more powerful people. Despite their obvious ignorance their arrogance is flabbergasting. If someone tells them that they were arrogant their reaction would be exaggerated and extreme. To rectify these people is the hardest as they think they are right and any admission of their mistake would tantamount to self-degradation. 


3. Ignorant egoist: This is the person who is genuinely ignorant. He or she does not know what they do not know. They are oblivious of the impact of their ignorant egotistic behaviour. You can expect two types of reaction from such people, they could genuinely be appreciative of the prospect of enlightenment or they could be totally disturbed by the prospect of change. They would be fearful of giving up their egotistic lifestyle. Their behaviour could be brash, unsophisticated and yet demanding of authority and power. This group is the easiest as they do not know the truth. But to change they need genuine knowledge and influence of good and honest people. 

Ego can manifest in many ways. Have you come across people who think they always know everything? There are many who think that they are always right and get so attached to their own TRUTHS that they cannot see other people's truths. These are people who are addicted to their ego. 

A great scholar once said, “I have never struggled to rectify something that is more difficult to overcome than my ego; sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose.” Our struggle to contain our ego must continue. 

Ego causes various sicknesses that infest our heart including pride (Takabbur), greed (Hirs), envy (Hasad), lust (Shahwah), backbiting (Gheebah), slandering (Namima), stinginess (Bokhl) and Malice (Keena). To tame our ego we have to serve a severe blow to some of the above-mentioned sicknesses. 

In the month of Ramadan, fasting is one of the best cures to these sicknesses. However, if you are not careful even your fasting could be infected by the ego. If the main objective of fasting in the month of Ramadan is to attain Taqwa, the ego is it’s direct antithesis. The ego and taqwa cannot coexist, not in the same heart at the same time. 

I would like to suggest a few practical tips to help you defeat your ego:

1. Get your intentions cleansed – Who are you doing things for? Is it to show off? It is to gain applaud of the world? Is it to gain recognition? Do you want to be famous? If you get the intention right, everything will be OK! As a Muslim you do everything for God. That is the mother of all intentions. 

2. Stop looking for praise – If you are a praise seeker, many flatterers whose sole intention is to suck up to you may falsely inflate you. Phrases such as “you have done a brilliant job”, “you have spoken amazingly”, “you are the best” are very nice to hear but if they are untrue you may have just fallen pray to false self-inflation – a terrible tragedy. 

3. Stay away from flatterers – Those who constantly praise you are the worse type of friends. They live in your shadow and they suck your blood by constantly supplying you a catalogue of poisonous and inflated praises. You don’t need them. You need critical and honest friends who would be sensitive to you but will not hesitate to put up a mirror in front of you. 

4. Refrain from ostentatious display of your piety – If your turban and gown are an extension of your ego, you are in big trouble. Many people erroneously focus on the outside appearances including the so-called “sunnah gown”, size of the beard, style or colour of hijab, your ability to use flowery words etc. Piety is in the heart and ego is pretentious and conceited, never the twine shall meet.

5. Don’t be a perfectionist – There is a fine line between doing things right and seeking perfection. You have to try your best to achieve excellence, God wants that of you but God is only the perfect and perfection belongs to him. In order to attain perfection many people fall sick of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This mental illness is debilitating and stems from the ego playing a dominant and destructive role. Everything that you do, as long as you have done your best and then relied on God you would successful. 

The ego is the ultimate tool Shaytan uses to capture us. If you have become the slave of your ego you have fallen far away from the pleasure of God. Use this blessed month to defeat the ego and kill it!


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About Ajmal-Masroor

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    Ajmal Masroor is an Author, Broadcaster, Relationship Counsellor , Politician and Imam based in London, UK. His facebook profile can be followed https://www.facebook.com/AjmalMasroor

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