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The major impediments and dangers to one’s spiritual purification must be recognized by the Muslim. He must be aware of them so that he may protect himself from them. Some of these may be summarized as follows:
(1) Desires, lusts and passions: These are the urges that occur in the soul and drive a person to commit an act that he knows is displeasing to Allah. Unless one works to control and overcome these desires, they can be disastrous for his effort of purification. Indeed, they can even completely overcome the person and become the “god” which he starts to worship.
(2) Ignorance, doubts and misconceptions: It is via ignorance that one does not know what the correct path is. When a person does not realize his own ignorance, he acts thinking that what he is doing is correct while it may actually be very harmful. In addition, ignorance can also lead to doubts and uncertainty. Doubts and uncertainty in turn affect a person’s resolve and willingness to sacrifice to remain upon the path of purification.
(3) Innovations and heresies: These are of extreme danger for the purification of the soul. In essence, they can lead a person down an errant path while he believes that he is following nothing but the truth. It is only by sound knowledge and by following the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) closely that one can avoid falling into this major pitfall.
(4) Sins: One gets closer to Allah by acts of obedience and one distances himself from Allah by sins and acts of disobedience. No matter whether the sin is a major or minor one, it signifies, at least to some extent, a step back in one’s journey of spiritual purification.
(5) Being overcome by this world and its glitter: One of the greatest dangers, especially in this day and age, is to be overcome with all of the “pleasures and excitement” that this world has to offer. This worldly life can make one lose one’s focus. Instead of concentrating on the Hereafter, one begins to work to accumulate the goods of this world. The situation can be so bad that the individual sacrifices the Hereafter for this life. This would sound a crushing defeat for the soul’s purification process.
(6) Evil companions, environment and surroundings: One’s surroundings and one’s friends can greatly influence an individual. For example, at the very least, evil friends may suggest deeds and ideas that are displeasing to Allah and harmful to the soul. Beyond that, they may further encourage and even help the person perform acts that are clearly disliked by Allah. Such friends and environments can clearly be a hindrance in one’s path of purification.
(7) Satan and his soldiers: When Allah created man, He had already created an enemy that was going to test his will and his devotion to Allah. When mankind gives into Satan, Satan’s only goal is to drag him into the Hell-fire. To protect himself on the path of purification, the believer must always be aware of Satan and his ways of operating.
(8) The enemies of Allah (those who have earned His wrath and those who have gone astray): These are the people who have either knowingly or unknowingly gone away from the path of purification. One must always be wary of them as they will either intentionally try to drive a person away from the Straight Path or they may inadvertently misadvise a Muslim causing him to swerve from the Straight Path.