Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have Mercy on him) said:
“Getting what you want depends on cutting off habits and attachment to anything else. Habits are when one leans towards what is more relaxing, such as the systems and traditions that people are accustomed to and place at the same level as the Shari’ah. In fact, they might even treat these habits with greater reverence than the Shari’ah, and reprimand those who do not abide by them – even declaring such a person to be a disbeliever, innovator, or misguided, and boycotting and punishing him for going against these traditions and habits. For the sake of these traditions, they kill off the traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and make their own traditions as partners with him (peace be upon him) – declaring alliance and enmity for them. So, the good in their eyes is what goes along with these traditions, and the bad is what contradicts them.
These habits and traditions have taken over various groups of the children of Adam – the kings, the leaders, the jurists, the Sufis, the impoverished, the authority figures, and the general populace. So, the young are taught them at an early age, and the old are raised upon them, and they are treated like sunan. Rather, they are more important in the eyes of those who abide by them than sunan. Whoever is restrained by such habits is imprisoned, cut off, afflicted with great misfortune, and end up abandoning the Qur’an and Sunnah for them. Whoever seeks any type of honor with them is a fool with Allah, and whoever follows them instead of the Qur’an and Sunnah will not be accepted by Allah. These are the greatest barriers and obstacles for the slave on his journey to Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him).
As for these obstacles, they are the many types of outer and inner contradictions to the Shari’ah that injure the heart upon its journey to Allah and render it immobile, and they cut it off on its path. They are three things: shirk, innovation, and sin. So, the obstacle of shirk is overcome by grasping onto Tawhid, and the obstacle of innovation is overcome by implementing the Sunnah, and the obstacle of sin is overcome by true repentance. These obstacles do not become evident to the slave until he actually begins his journey to Allah and the Hereafter. Only then are these obstacles noticed, and he will notice their handicapping effect in accordance with how intensely and attentively he is traversing this path. Otherwise, he will simply remain still, not feeling their hidden effects.
As for the connections to cut off, these are to anything that the heart can be attached and connected to in place of Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) – of the pleasures and desires of this world, the fame it offers, and relationships with others. There is no way to cut off and push away these three things except with the strength of the connection and attachment to a higher goal. Otherwise, cutting these things off without attaching yourself to something else is impossible. The soul does not abandon the object it loves and desires except to attach itself to what is even more beloved and greater in importance to it than what it has abandoned. The stronger its connection becomes to what it seeks, the weaker its connection becomes to anything else, and vice versa. The connection to the object that is sought is manifested in the intense desire for it, and this is in accordance with how much is known of this object, how noble that object is, and its virtue over everything else.”
[Excerpts taken from book ‘The Manners of the Knowledge Seeker’]