Monday, May 29, 2006

The Meaning of Nafs.

By Muhammad 'Afifi al-'Akiti.

In the Name of God, Most Compassionate and Merciful

All the praise is to Allah s.w.t, Who has adorned us with good stature, proportion and his bounty. We seek for His forgiveness and guidance on the right path; we also seek refuge from the evils.

Selawat and Salam upon our Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w.

Allah s.w.t says:

"As for whoever exceeded the limits and preferred the life of this world, surely his abode will be the Fire; and as for whoever feared to stand before his Lord and restrained the desires of his self, surely his abode will be the Garden." [Sura 79:39-40].

Ibn Kathir says: "The Mu'min are a people who have been prevented through the Qur'an from indulging in the pleasures of this world; it comes between them and what might destroy them. The Mu'min is like a prisoner in this world, who tries to free himself from its shackles and chains, placing his trust in nothing in it, until the day he meets his Creator. He knows full well that he is accountable for everything that he hears sees and says, and for everything that he does with his body."

[Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, vol. 9 pg. 276, Cairo 1352].

There are two kinds of people, one are those whose Nafs have overcome them and led them to ruin because they yielded to them and obeyed their impulses. The other kinds are those who have overcome their Nafs and made them obey their commands.

Nafs [Anfus or Nufus] lexically means soul, the psyche, the ego, self, life, person, heart or mind. [Mu'jam, Kassis].

Although some scholars have classified the Nafs up to seven stages, there is an agreement among Ulama' that in the Qur'an, Allah s.w.t. has described at least three main types of the Nafs.

And these are in rank from the worse to better:

Nafs al-Ammara Bissu' [the Nafs that urges Evil],
Nafs al-Lawwama [the Nafs that Blames] and
Nafs al-Mutma`inna [the Nafs at Peace].

[Chapter 12 v. 53 in the Tafsir of al-Tabari: Jami' al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an, 30 vols. Bulaq 1323 & also in Imam Baghawi's Tafsir: Lubab al-Ta'wil fi Ma'alam at-Tanzil, 8 vols. Cairo, 1308]

[1.] Nafs al-Ammara Bissu’ [The Soul which Commands].

This Nafs brings punishment itself. By its very nature it directs its owner towards every wrong action. No one can get rid of its evil without the help from Allah. As Allah refers to this Nafs in the story of the wife of al-Aziz [Zulaikha] and Prophet Yusuf s.a.w: "The [human] soul is certainly prone to evil" [12:53].

Allah also says:

"And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His Mercy on you, not one of you would ever have been pure; but Allah purifies whomever He wishes, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing." [24:21]

This Nafs resides in the world of the senses and is dominated by earthly desires [Shahwat] and passions….

Evil lies hidden in the Nafs and it is this that leads it on to do wrong. If Allah were to leave the servant alone with his self, the servant would be destroyed between its evil and the evil that it craves; but if Allah grants him success and help, then he will survive. We seek refuge in Allah the Almighty, both from the evil in ourselves and from the evil of our actions.

[2.] Nafs al-Lawwama [the Soul that Blames]

Allah refers to this Nafs:

"And I do call to witness the Nafs that blames" [75:2].

This Nafs is conscious of its own imperfections.

Hasan al-Basri said, "You always see the believer blaming himself and saying things like 'Did I want this? Why did I do that? Was this better than that?"….

[3.] Nafs al-Mutma`inna [he Soul at Peace].

Allah refers to this Nafs:

"O Self, in complete rest and satisfaction!" [89:27].

This Nafs is tranquil as it rests on the certitude of Allah.

Ibn Abbas (r) said, "It is the tranquil and believing soul".

Al-Qatadah (r) said, "It is the soul of the believer, made calm by what Allah has promised. Its owner is at rest and content with his knowledge of Allah's Names and Attributes, and with what He has said about Himself and His Messenger , and with what He has said about what awaits the soul after death: about the departure of the soul, the life in the Barzakh, and the events of the Day of Qiyamah which will follow. So much so that a believer such as this can almost see them with his own eyes. So he submits to the will of Allah and surrenders to Him contentedly, never dissatisfied or complaining, and with his faith never wavering. He does not rejoice at his gains, nor do his afflictions make him despair - for he knows that they were decreed long before they happened to him, even before he was created…."

[Al-Tabari: Jami' al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an, vol. 13, Bulaq 1323]

Imam Baghawi says: "The Nafs al-Mutma`inna has an angel to help it, who assists and guides it. The angel casts good into the Nafs so that it desires what is good and is aware of the excellence of good actions. The angel also keeps the self away from wrong action and shows it the ugliness of bad deeds. All in all, whatever is for Allah and by him, always comes from the Soul which is at Peace.

The Nafs al-Ammara Bissu' has Shaytan as its ally. He promises it great rewards and gains, but casts falsehood into it. He invites it and entices the soul to do evil. He leads it on with hope after hope and presents falsehood to the soul in a form that it will accept and admire."

Ibn al-Qayyim also mentioned the states of Nafs: "The Nafs is a single entity, although its state may change: from the Nafs al-Ammara, to the Nafs al-Lawwama, to the Nafs al-Mutma`inna, which is the final aim of perfection….

It has been said that the Nafs al-Lawwama is the one, which cannot rest in any one state. It often changes, remembers and forgets, submits and evades, loves and hates, rejoices and become sad, accepts and rejects, obeys and rebels.

Nafs al-Lawwama is also the Nafs of the believer….It has also been mentioned that the Nafs blames itself on the Day of Qiyamah - for every one blames himself for his actions, either his bad deeds, if he was one who had many wrong actions, or for his shortcomings, if he was one who did good deeds. All of this is accurate.

[Madarij as-Salikin fi Manazili Iyyaka Na'budu WA Iyyaka Nasta'in, vol. 1 pg. 308]

Sa'id Hawwa says regarding these Nafs: "Depending upon its condition, the Nafs exist in multidimensional. When the Nafs is tranquil because of obeying Allah, and the soul opposes its desires, this soul is known as Nafs al-Mutma`inna. Regarding this, Allah has spoken about it in the Qur'an [89:27-28].

However, if the soul does not attain peace with itself, rather being exposed to desires, then such soul is known as the Nafs al-Lawwama because this soul reproaches its owner due to the owner's carelessness in fulfilling out Allah's wishes - Qur'an [75:2].

More so, if the soul submits to lusts and allows itself to be seduced by Shaytan, such a soul is known as Nafs al-Ammara Bissu'. Allah tells the story about the wife of al-Aziz [Zulaikha] in Qur'an [12:53].

[Tarbiyatun nar Ruhiyah, pg. 32, Cairo: Dar al- Salam, 1408].

There is a famous Arabic saying: "O soul...Watch out! Help me with your striving, in the darkness of the nights; so that on the Day of Qiyamah, you will win a good life on those heights."

May this be of provide a benefit to fellow readers. In addition, our prayers and "Glory to your Lord, the Lord of Honour & Power! He is better from what they ascribe to Him! Peace be upon the Messengers! Praise is to Allah, the Lord of the worlds." [37:180-182].

The 68 Blemishes of the Nafs.

To clean the nafs of the 68 blemishes listed below is the beginning of good adab, which is the greater part of Islam.
  1. Ujub - to be proud of one’s spiritual state.
  2. Riya’ - to show off
  3. Kibr - arrogance
  4. Hasad - envy
  5. Bukhul - miserliness
  6. Kin - to be vengeful
  7. Kufr - faithlessness
  8. Bid’at- to distort religion and tradition
  9. Kufran-i ni’met - to deny the giver of gifts or to belittle the gifts
  10. To be disatisfied and complain about one’s state
  11. To cease to have hope for Allah’s Mercy
  12. To be unsure of Allah’s punishment
  13. To condone tyrrany and help tyrants
  14. To speak against decent people
  15. To keep the heart attached to this world
  16. To keep wanting to be a leader
  17. To expect approval and compliments
  18. To fear criticism
  19. Not to be able to prevent oneself from wanting
  20. Instead of wishing to learn the truth, being an imitator
  21. To fawn over people for personal benefit
  22. To be happy about disasters that fall upon people, even your enemies
  23. To be a coward
  24. To be angry
  25. To be a tyrant
  26. Not to keep one’s word
  27. To believe in bad luck
  28. To think unjustly about people
  29. To love one’s property
  30. To be overly concerned with the world and the worldly
  31. To be ambitious
  32. To lead an irresponsible life
  33. To mix oneself into affairs that do not concern one
  34. To be undignified
  35. Not to keep the time of one’s devotions due to laziness
  36. To be shameless
  37. To lament the loss of things
  38. To gossip
  39. To be stubborn
  40. To be an egoist
  41. To be a hypocrite
  42. To cheat
  43. To be brutish
  44. To be dishonorable in relations with women
  45. To be lustful
  46. Not to accept one’s error and continue insisting on it
  47. To be afraid of poverty
  48. Not to believe in destiny or to talk about destiny
  49. To make oneself depressed
  50. To take pleasure in belittling others
  51. To be indiscriminately happy
  52. To be insincerely kind and fawning over rich people
  53. To be disdainful of the poor
  54. To boast and be proud of one’s past
  55. To show off one’s physical prowess
  56. To belittle others
  57. To like to talk long unnecessarily
  58. To be self centered in conversation
  59. To forget about one’s own shortcomings and be preoccupied with the shortcomings of others
  60. To exclude from one’s heart the fear of Allah and the shame and sadness of one’s state
  61. In distress to make excuses and to fall back on and encourage the nafs
  62. To decline to help in a struggle for Allah’s sake
  63. To pretend to be friends with one’s enemy
  64. To cheat in one’s work
  65. To set traps for others
  66. To identify with the world to the extent of forgetting Allah
  67. To take pleasure in people’s suffering
  68. Not to suffer because of one’s mistakes

These are like thorns growing in a barren field, show you the ugly attribute of the heart which surface, and become visible.

Avoid them and beautify yourselves with the opposite of every one of these faults, because the prayer which pleases Allah and which brings you closest to Him is to have beautiful add right adab.


1 comment:

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