Jihad Al-Akbar: Having Strong Willpower and Resolution

In the second part of our series on Jihad al-Akbar, we discuss the importance of having a strong will and resolution against committing sins and following Islamic law.

In the second part of our series on Jihad al-Akbar, we discuss the importance of having a strong will and resolution against committing sins and following Islamic law.

In the first part of our series on Jihad al-Akbar, or conquering oneself, we defined what it was and the various stage one must traverse to attain victory over oneself. In summary, Jihad al-Akbar is about disciplining ourselves to obey Allah (SWT) and not transgress the limits set out by Him. The article discussed the importance of contemplation as the crucial first step. Our lives are full of distractions. Taking a moment or two to contemplate and silence the noise of the dunya affords us an opportunity to emphasise our priorities and our purpose. The Holy Quran and hadith literature are full of reminders of the importance of contemplation.

Contemplation has its limits. Meaning contemplation is useless unless it results in some sort of action. For example, I can contemplate the tragic war in Yemen, the occupation of Palestine or poverty in my local community. But if my contemplation doesn’t lead me to try and do something about it (within my capacity), one can say the contemplation has not achieved its desired goal. Similarly, if I contemplate the Holy Quran and the signs of Allah (SWT), but it doesn’t make me more obedient to God, I haven’t fully achieved the goal of contemplation. This is why the next stage in the journey is having a strong will and resolution – but what does this mean?

A Resolution to Stop Sinning

The first area of our life where a strong will and resolution needs exercising is against sin. Sin destroys a person. Allah (SWT) has created the world with physical and metaphysical laws. In the same way, the human being has been created with bodily and spiritual laws. If we go against these laws, we cause damage to ourselves, which is why we need to exercise equilibrium. In terms of bodily law, we know that our body needs food to function – but it has to be the right amount. Too much or little food causes its own health problems that damage our organs and causes disease.  This is easy to understand and is apparent because we’ve seen the harmful effects on ourselves and on others, and this is why the vast majority of the population is sensible in their consumption.

Spiritual laws are more difficult to follow because we don’t understand them and can’t see their harmful effects. We may wonder:

  • Why can’t I listen to music? I still pray and fast
  • What’s wrong with being around alcohol? I’m not drinking it
  • What’s wrong with shaking the hand of the opposite gender? A mere handshake is not going to make me want to commit zina.
  • etc.

Engaging in these activities harms our soul and spirituality. They don’t cause physical pain (like excessive eating would) but cause pain to our spirit. And these effects are fully realised and felt on the Day of Judgement. On that Day, Allah (SWT) makes apparent to us the reality of who we are. If we spent our lives gossiping and showing off, we will see what those things have done to our spiritual state on the Day of Judgement. The Holy Qur’an states:

Never think Allah is unaware of what the wrongdoers do, He just delays them to a day when eyes stare in horror.”


The wrongdoer lives his or her life in vanity, sinful and pointless activities, not realising what it’s doing to the spiritual self. It’s on the Day of Judgement, they will “stare in horror” at what they’ve done to themselves.

One should focus on stopping major and minor sins. Often people don’t pay attention to minor sins. They will avoid bacon at all costs but will happily stare at the opposite gender, not making any effort to lower one’s gaze. It’s repeatedly doing these ‘smaller’ sins that lead to our downfall. Imam Ali says:

The greatest sin is one that the doer repeats again and again.”

[Ghurar al-Hikam]

Here, God is not expecting you never to commit a sin again. Rather, He wants to see us exert efforts in trying our best to stay away from it. As long as we die knowing we genuinely tried our best, He will cover and forgive our shortcomings.

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A Will to Follow All Islamic Laws and Obligations

Ceasing sins is half of the work. The other half is ensuring we fulfil all our obligatory acts of worship and follow all Islamic laws. It’s not enough to just pray and fast. Often, we water down obligations to these two things. They’re vital but form part of a much larger corpus of Islamic laws. For example, one must:

  • Exert effort to understand the rulings that affect one’s life. For example, if you are a business owner, it’s your duty to understand the Islamic laws of trade and transaction.
  • Try and seek clarification to any law one does not understand.

Islam is not a list of rituals. It’s a holistic religion. While we are very good at fulfilling the rituals, we must assess our lifestyle (our work, relationships, extra-curricular activities etc.) and ensure that these are following Islamic principles.

It’s impossible for us to fully win the Jihad against ourselves unless we are familiar with the apparent shariah.

Imitating the Prophet

The last area we need to strive in is copying the Prophet’s Sunnah as much as possible. Acquaint yourself with how the Prophet lived his life and dealt with matters. Copying him will help you reach Allah (SWT). Of course, many aspects of the Prophet’s Sunnah may not be practical in the west (like copying his dress sense) or may require modern-day interpretation. Seek clarity if you need it.

How to Establish a Strong Will and Resolution

What does it mean to have a strong will and resolution? What do I physically or mentally do on a daily basis to carry out and build a strong will and resolution?


Scrutinise yourself. We’re very good at picking out other people’s flaws and gossiping about them. Imagine if we scrutinised ourselves with those same standards. We would stop the sin of gossip because we’d be too engrossed in evaluating our numerous flaws. On the Day of Judgement, we will be questioned about everything we did in life. Why not start this process while we’re alive in this world?

What this means practically is up to you. You could take stock of how the day went at the end of every day and identify any actions that could be improved on or eliminated. This brings our behaviours to the forefront of our minds, and the next day we’d be more conscious of them. This might not happen immediately, but the more we try and practice self-examination, the more aware we’ll be of our state.

Remembering God

Nearly all sins occur because we forget about God. If we constantly remembered Him and realise He is always watching us, we wouldn’t perform any act of disobedience. Once again, this is not an overnight thing. The habit of remembering God takes time. At first, we might find ourselves ‘forcing’ this remembrance. After a while, it will become habitual and natural to remember God because its importance would have embedded in our subconscious mind and would travel to the conscious mind whenever necessary. There are many different ways to remember God. Here are a few:

  • Read the Holy Quran.
  • Reflect on His creation in nature, other animals etc.
  • Recall the blessings He has bestowed on you.
  • Start actions with Bismillah and end them with Alhamdullilah

As much as possible, keep God at the forefront of your mind.

Having a Strong Will and Resolution

In this second part, we’ve discussed the crucial second stage of Jihad al-Akbar, which is to have a strong will and resolution in avoiding sins and following Islamic laws and some ways to practically achieve this. In the next part, we will talk about repentance and curing inner immorality.