riyada in arabic means "training" or "discipline". It was used by the arabs in relation to horse taming. Sufis refer to their discipline as "riyadat an-nafs": disciplining the soul / training the ego. Today, the word riyada has come to mean "sports". There is an Arabic proverb that says: "The purpose of sports (riyada) is not to win cups, but to discipline the soul". This blog is here to help me discipline my soul and train my body.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Gom Jabbar

“A duke’s son must know about poisons", [the Reverend Mother] said. "...Here’s a new one for you: the gom jabbar. It kills only animals.”

Pride overcame Paul's fear. "You dare suggest a duke's son is an animal?" he demanded.


At the beginning of Dune, Paul Atreides is brought into the presence of the Reverend Mother Mohiam in order to be tested. Now obviously if all of us humans were living at a level above that of animals, such a test would not be necessary.

Seest thou such a one as taketh for his god his own passion (or impulse)? ... Or thinkest thou that most of them listen or understand? They are only like cattle;- nay, they are worse astray in Path. (Quran 25: 43-44)

And that is just what the Gom Jabbar test is for: to see if Paul can override his own natural impulses. In the test, he puts his hand in a small box that causes him excruciating pain, but he knows that if he pulls out his hand he would die instantly. Now an animal, even if it knew and perfectly understood that it would die if it pulled out its hand from the box, would still pull it out as soon as it feels the pain. This is a natural reaction or impulse that the animal cannot override: it is hardwired to pull its hand away as soon as it experiences pain.

The Bene Gesserit believe that animals react only by instinct, their base emotions, and drives. They also believe that humans can use their self-awareness to combat instinct. That is what Paul did, when he faught his instinctual drive to run from the pain.

But everyday I see people failing the Gom Jabbar test miserably, even when it is far easier. Almost every day I see people, for example, who are really overweight and who have failed to lose any weight for years, even though they really want to. I see them sitting on the dining table, and just eating everything they could get their hands to. They know that they shouldn't, but they don't seem to be able to override their base desires. They dont seem to even try. They simply shut off all rational thought, and all the knowledge of how much further this takes them away from their goal, and simply let loose on the food. Eat, eat eat. It boggles my mind and I can't understand it. When there's food infront of them, they are simply animals, and they dont even try to override their desires, even when they know that they should! I just can't understand it. It seems really easy to me: my desires say yes, but my rational mind say I have a greater desire: to be healthy, and I sacrifice this worthless short-term pleasure for a greater long-term benefit, a benefit that would keep me happy all my life.

I mean, it's not like you are throwing away 10 minutes of extra pleasure in return for nothing. You are giving up 10 minutes of extra pleasure (because you can still get plenty pleasure eating healthy food), for a lifetime of happiness and satisfaction with your weight and health and body. But what these people do at every meal is opt for a little extra short term pleasure and a whole lifetime of dissapointment at their weight and health. I really can't understand it. I mean they spend their whole lives, every other minute, suffering from being fat, suffering because their knees hurt, beacuse their backs hurt, because they can't walk easily, because they look at the mirror and think they're looking at a poster of the Michelin Man, because they are always out of breath. You can't override a simple desire in order to get rid of all that?!

And this food example is just the most ready example in my mind because I see it everyday. But there is a little Gom Jabbar test in everything we do. Tell me, can't you override the desire to have a second look at that girl over there? How will that glance benefit you in any way? What do you get out of it? That's another thing that always boggled my mind, even though I fall for it myself. It doesn't benefit me in any way, but still sometimes I can't resist to give her a second glance. Why? I really can't understand. And what happens if I look? Eye zina, and the decrease (or extinguishment) of the divine light in one's heart and face. That divine light that illumines one's face if he prays late at night. That divine light that enters one's heart if he purifies it with God's remembrance (not that I have any of either at the moment, may God save me!)

Which brings me to something that I'm still struggling with: doing all my prayers. Most times it's about forgetfulness, but sometimes it's not. It's laziness. Why can't I override this ridiculous little desire to be lazy, to just sit there, while I know my whole life on this world and the next are at stake! Why? How could I be so stupid, so weak. How can I be in this worse than an animal? I'm giving away my spiritual advancement in this world, and acceptance in the next. I'm not doing right the most important thing that I am here to do. Why? Because I cannot override this tiny meaningless little desire. Every day, I fail the Gom Jabbar. There I was writing about how it boggles my mind that people are sacrificing their happiness in their lives for 5 minutes of extra happinness at meal time, whereas I am sacrificing my eternal happiness for... nothing. Not even for 5 or 10 minutes of happiness. All I would be losing out on is 5 or 10 minutes of, I dunno, sitting there. I can't believe it. This is insane. And it needs to stop.

O God, make me stronger!
I'm off to do my ablutions for prayer. Wassalam.


Blogger Elizabeth said...

You beat yourself up too much.

I don't see what's wrong with you looking at women unless it makes them uncomfortable. Looking at them isn't the same as having sex with them.

July 8, 2006 at 12:55 AM

Blogger DA said...

The Dune books are amazing. Seriously, so insightful in so many ways. Frank Herbert had a great understanding of history, ecology, psychology, religion, and other topics, and blended them all together.

July 10, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Blogger HijabiApprentice said...

salaams. i could have written that last paragraph :(. authoo billah! i don't know why i have become so lazy. i pray ALLAH strengthen us and all muslims and protects us from laziness. ameen.

July 11, 2006 at 1:44 AM

Blogger Silencer said...

elizabeth- i'm not really "beating myself up" except on the prayer thing. the looking at women thing is not really a big problem, and i dont want to get into it right now.

da- Dune Messiah has been sitting next to my bed for months but i need to get through the books im reading first before i get to it.

hijabi- let's kick laziness in the butt!

July 11, 2006 at 8:39 AM

Blogger HijabiApprentice said...

we can do it!

July 11, 2006 at 10:21 PM


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