One day whilst travelling, the great sage, Zunnun Misri (Rahimahullah) who hailed from Egypt, passed by a sweetmeat shop and felt an inner desire to purchase some for himself. He then started speaking to the Nafs (inner ego), saying: “My friend, you are fully aware that I am not in the position to afford these sweetmeats…”
Now look at the conniving nature of the Nafs, the Nafs responds, “Why don’t you buy it on account. Ask the shopkeeper for credit?” Zunnun Misri (Rahimahullah) replied, “We have been prohibited to do so in the Hadith unless there is a dire need.” The Nafs went a step further saying, “You are a great saint, why don’t you inform the people in the shop who you are and they will give it to you for free.” Zunnun Misri immediately knew that this is the deception of the Nafs. So to teach the Nafs a lesson, he went to the farming area where the buffalos were ploughing the land – he asked the farmer how much it would cost to plough the land for one day, the farmer gave him the rate, he then asked if he had to do it himself would the farmer pay the rate – the farmer agreed.
Zunnun Misri (Rahimahullah) strapped the equipment onto his back and ploughed the land for the entire day. After the hard days work, he received his wages and went to the sweetmeat shop and bought some sweetmeats.
He now addresses his Nafs that if you want sweetmeats again, this is how we are going to work for it, immediately the Nafs responded by saying, “If this is the case then I don’t want sweetmeats anymore.” Never ever did the Nafs trouble him again.
Lesson – great strides were taken to mute the advances of the lowly desires. This is a constant battle we should be engaged in – never be compalcent about the state of the Nafs.