The Grasping, Greedy Ego – Commentary by A. Helwa

By A. Helwa

“Those who are saved from the covetousness of their own souls, they are the ones who achieve prosperity.” (Qur’an 64:16)

“If the son of Adam were to possess two valleys of riches, he would long for a third one.” ~The Prophet Muhammad

“On those who believe and perform righteous deeds, the Lord of Mercy will bestow love for them.”  (Qur’an 19:96)

It is in turning toward the Divine, being of service to others, and removing the veils of the ego that we begin to feel the love that God has always been pouring upon us.  It is believed that the ego (nafs)  or the illusionary sense of self is created when the breath of God (ruh) is joined with our mortal body.  It is metaphorically said that if the spirit is symbolized by the sun and the body by wet clay, the ego is the translucent steam created when the light of the spirit touches the clay.” (Imam Bin Younis) In other words, like a fog that distorts our vision, the ego is a veil between our consciousness and our spirit. The purification and detachment of the ego is so vital within Islam because the more we purify the illusions of the self, the more we are able to witness the light of Allah.  

Just as the dark night is needed to be able to see the stars, the lower ego creates the contrast necessary to experience the spirit.  The poet Samani speaks to the balancing effect of opposites when he says, “There must be a garbage pit next to a lofty palace so that all the refuse and filth that gather in the palace can be thrown there.  In the same way, whenever God formed a heart by means of the light of purity, He placed the lower self [ego] next to it as a dustbin.  This black spot of “ignorance” flies on the same wings as the jewel of purity . . . a straight arrow needs a crooked bow.  Oh heart, you be like the straight arrow!  Oh ego, you take the shape of a crooked bow!”  

Even the existence of the human being is like a coin that comes fashioned with two sides: on the one hand, the Qur’an says that we are made in the best of molds (95:4), fashioned with the breath of God’s spirit (38:72) and chosen to be His representative of mercy upon the Earth (2:30).  On the other hand, the Qur’an describes humankind as fragile creatures made of dust from the same earth they walk upon (23:12); anxious, forgetful, ungrateful, vulnerable to the bite of a fly (22:73), a nothingness in the face of God’s eternal reality; a mortal that is passing away a breath at a time, inching toward a death that will arrive without warning. (31:34).

When our ego’s inclination to be forgetful of the Divine is met with remembrance of God, our entire perception of reality can transform in an instant.  We can either be lured by the mortal pleasures of this world into forgetfulness of who and whose we really are, or we can strive against our ego’s desires by being in remembrance of God’s incomprehensible mercy toward us.

This blog is an excerpt from A. Helwa’s recently published best-selling book, “Secrets of Divine Love: A Spiritual Journey into the Heart of Islam.” Her book is available on

#1 Best Seller

About A. Helwa
A. Helwa believes that every single person on Earth is deeply loved by the Divine. She is a writer who has inspired hundreds of thousands of readers through her passionate, poetic, and love-based approach to spirituality. Her popular blog @quranquotesdaily, was established while obtaining her Masters in Divinity, as a means of helping others overcome personal and spiritual struggles on their journey of experiencing divine love. 

With over 15 years of experience writing and speaking on Islam and spiritual development, A. Helwa draws from her personal experiences and traditional sources to help her readers access ‘Divine love in everyday life.’

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