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Wonders of the Soul – Things You May Not Know

Know that character is different from action. A character trait is a set condition of the soul, while an action is simply an intentional movement of the body.

A stingy person may give money on occasion but that does not make them generous. Generosity is a character trait when giving money is pleasurable.

Attributes of the Soul

Just as the body has distinct organs and parts, the soul has distinct attributes: The rational, predatory, and bestial attributes.

Beautiful character occurs when the souls’ attributes are balanced:

The rational attribute is the ability to reason, for example distinguishing truth from falsehood:

When deficient, it leads to stupidity, and when excessive to swindling and fraud.

The predatory attribute is the quality of anger:

When deficient it leads to Corrodes, and when excessive to recklessness.

The bestial attribute is that of appetite and desire:

When deficient it leads to indifference, and when excessive to gluttony.

When the attributes are balanced, the rational leads to wisdom; the predatory to courage; and the bestial to restraint.

Finally, when the predatory and bestial attributes are set under the command of the intellect, it leads to the fourth virtue: Justice.

It is easier for the soul to rest in the extremes of the various attributes either in deficiency or in excess. However, the middle path, while more difficult, is the necessary path for good character.

The soul falls sick when its attributes are out of balance, and as a result, the heart becomes incapable of loving God.

The heart can be treated by means of spiritual struggle.

The medicine for ugly character is to force the soul to perform actions that directly counter the flawed character trait.

However, different diseases of the heart require different cures, just as a physician cannot treat all patients with the same medicine; and as with the body, the heart requires medicine only until the symptom goes away and balance is restored.

For example, a stingy person should oblige himself to give continuously until it becomes easy to do so. Stinginess is cured when it is more pleasurable for one to give money than to keep it.

How to Discipline the Soul

The path to a disciplined soul starts with aspiring the desire to come to the truth through inner struggle.

One must struggle to keep the soul under the command of the intellect.

The only way to discipline the soul is by denying destructive pleasures through renouncing one’s desires.

These desires create barriers between the person and truth: Wealth lifted by ridding oneself of the unnecessary; prestige lifted by distancing oneself from it; conformism lifted by renouncing one’s blind imitations; and sin lifted by repentance and avoiding previous mistakes.

Once these barriers are lifted, one needs to build a fortress around themselves to maintain a just equilibrium among the attributes of the soul.


About Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali

Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) is one of the greatest Islamic Jurists, theologians and mystical thinkers. Al-Ghazali wrote many works on theology and philosophy like al-Iqtisad fi'I-i`tiqad (The Middle Path in Theology), al-Risala al-Qudsiyya (The Jerusalem Epistle), Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences)

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