Maulana Jalaluddeen Rumi (Rahmatullah ‘alaih) relates a story of a snake catcher who once went to the mountains. Due to the winter cold and heavy snow, many very big snakes lay motionless, as if they were dead.
The snake-catcher picked up one of these seemingly lifeless snakes and took it to Baghdad, with the purpose of using it for a show. Showing it off, he made big claims as to how he had deftly captured the snake – captivating the attention of his audience.
However, when the sun began to shine and its warmth cloaked the snake, the coldness in its body disappeared. The signs of life were soon apparent and when the snake began to move, the snake-catcher and all those around, fled.
Maulana Rumi (Rahmatullah ‘alaih) then explains that our nafs is like that snake. With Tazkia (purification) and mushaqqat (effort), our nafs (self) becomes frozen. It appears to be dead. But give it a little heat from the fire of sin and it will bite again. A little exposure to some past sins and the nafs swings back to life.
We should not think that we have killed our nafs and thus become unmindful. Yes, with some mujahadah (striving), suhbat (company) of the Sheikh, tilawat (recitation) of the Qur’aan Sharief, Zikr (Praise of Allah Ta'ala)ullah, following Deen and Shariah and in building up that contact and love for Allah Ta’ala and Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) , the nafs can be frozen. However, a little taste of sin easily revives the evil nafs.
Hazrat Khwaja Azizul Hasan Majzoub (Rahmatullah ‘alaih) says most aptly:
“ Have no trust in this nafs, O devout one!
Even if it becomes an angel,
remain distrustful of it.
Look at the snake of your nafs.
As soon as you are negligent here,
it bites there.”
The point being discussed was: “Do not claim divinity.” (i.e. that you are Allah) and that everything must happen according to your will and desire.