The Nafs: Between Passion and Determination
|The Nafs: Between Passion and Determination|
|All praise is due to Allah and may His choicest salutations continue to descend upon our Master and Leader Muhammad who personified perfection of character and resolve.
“And so We have bestowed the Book as a heritage unto servants that We choose and among them are some who sin against themselves; and some who follow a middle course (between right and wrong) and some who by the permission of Allah are foremost in deeds of goodness. That indeed is the highest grace” (35:32)
Allah has blessed man with the potential to do good as well as the ability to do wrong. Human beings are not inherently sinful… they are equally capable of both good and evil. They have been blessed with passion and emotion together with resolve and determination. These attributes are located within the nafs. Those that yield to the impulses of the nafs become slaves of their desires while those who are able to overcome the dictates of the nafs become the vicegerents of Allah.
The strength to overcome the dictates of the nafs does not come from physical ability or capacity, but from strong willpower. “Great souls have strong willpower; feeble ones have only great wishes.” Wish-making is a passive activity which generally flows from belief in luck, whilst a strong will is dynamic action based on belief in a higher purpose of our existence – on the love of Allah and fear of giving account for our deeds in His court.
Three stages of development of the nafs:
2. The second stage is called: An-nafs-ul-lawwamah ‘the self that blames’ or ‘the self-reproaching conscience’.
3. The third stage is called: An- nafs-ul – mutmainnah – ‘the Soul at Peace”
The first stage: Nafs: An-nafs-ul-ammarah ‘the self that tempts (to evil)’
The second stage: An-nafs-ul-lawwamah ‘the self that blames’ or ‘the self-reproaching conscience’.
The third stage: An- nafs-ul – mutmainnah – ‘the Soul at Peace”
Ibn al-Qayyim states that: “The Nafs is a single entity, although its state may change…” It may regress to a lower state or may progress to a higher level depending on the level of struggle against it. Nabi (saw) once asked his companions: “What do you think about a companion who, if you treat him nicely, feed him, clothe him, still he would throw you in all sorts of troubles – and if you insult him, and keep him hungry and naked, he would do what is good for you?
The Sahabah (ra) said: O’ Prophet of Allah! There cannot be a companion worse than him in this whole world!” He replied: “By Him in whose hands rest my life, your nafs is such a companion.” (Qurtubi) He further said: “A strong person is not the one who overcomes people, but one who overcomes his nafs.” ( Majma’ ul-zawa’id)
The three stages of the nafs ultimately determine the three levels of our relationship with the Quran. “And so We have bestowed the Book as a heritage unto servants that We choose and among them are some who sin against themselves; and some who follow a middle course (between right and wrong) and some who by the permission of Allah are foremost in deeds of goodness. That indeed is the highest grace” (35:32)
1. Those who wrong themselves – They are subjugated by the An-nafs-ul-ammarah -the self that tempts (to evil)’ They are unable to submit to ‘what is right’ and abstain from ‘what is wrong.’ They are generally indifferent to Quranic teachings and justify their wrongdoing. They see the Quran as a collection of ancient tales – A Book containing law that is irrelevant or irrational.
May Allah T’aala purify our souls and may He grant us the ability to be among “Those who are foremost in the doing of good”