Ibn al-Jawzī authored the following as an advice to his son, Abu’l-Qasim Badr al-Dīn ‘Alī al-Nasikh.1
You should know, my son, may Allāh guide you to what is right, that man has been distinguished by intellect only so that he would act according to it. Bring it to the fore, use it in contemplation and spend time alone with yourself. You will conclude that you are a created being who has responsibilities and obligations and that the two angels are counting your every word and glance. Every breath is a step closer to death. The time we spend in this world is short, the time we are held in our graves is long, and the punishment for following our base desires is calamitous.
Where is the delight of yesterday? It has departed leaving only regret in its wake. Where is the soul’s desire? How many has it brought low, how many has it caused to slip and falter? People have only attained happiness by going against their lusts and desires. People have only become wretched by giving preference to the life of this world. Learn from the lives of kings and ascetics: where is the delights of the kings and where is the weariness of the ascetics? The only thing left is the abundant reward and beautiful mention for the pious, and the malicious words and calamitous punishment for the disobedient. It is as if those who starved never starved and those who ate to their fill never did so. Laziness in virtuous deeds is an evil companion indeed, and love of comfort causes regret greater than any enjoyment. So take heed and tire yourself for your self.
Know, that performing the obligatory and avoiding the forbidden is a must; whenever a person transgresses the limits let him beware of the Fire. Then know that aspiring to virtuous deeds is the highest goal of those who strive yet virtuous deeds vary in status and ranks; some people consider them to mean abstaining from worldly vanities and others think they stand for dedicating oneself for worship. The truth, however, is that complete virtue is nothing but joining knowledge with action. When these two are combined they raise a person to the level of truly knowing the Creator, Exalted and Most High, causing him to love, fear and yearn for Him. This is the true goal. People also vary in determination: not everybody who wants is wanted and not everybody who seeks finds what he is looking for. Still, everyone must strive to reach their goals because “everyone is eased towards what he is created for.”2
Allāh is the source of all help.
1. He used to mistreat his father who was not pleased with his ways and finally abandoned him for years. He died in 630.
2. The wording of this sentence is a sahīh hadīth of the Prophet salAllāhu ’alayhi wasallam from ‘Alī ibn Abī Talib (al-Bukhārī: Kitab al-Jana’iz, 1362, Chapter: Preaching by the while one’s companions are sitting around oneself , 1362, Muslim: Kitab al-Qadr, Chapter: How man was created, 2467, 6).
- Transcribed from: Sincere Counsel to the Seekers of Sacred Knowledge; being a translation of his ‘Laft al-Kabid ila Nasiha al-Walad’ | Ibn al-Jawzī