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|nafs, ruh, qalb, shaytaan, and us!|
|06/03/02 at 16:23:52|
Let me say a few things. Most of this is my own understanding of things based on reading different books and articles, attending different lessons and seminars over the years, and listening to different tapes on these subjects. What I'm about to get into is a detailed topic, and something that cannot be truly understood in a purely *intellectual* way, and neither is it something that can be explained by a layman like myself (not in the sense of intellectual layman, although I even fit that category, but a layman among those who have *internalized* these ... umm ... concepts). Nevertheless, I feel that some of us need to at least "know" the "basics" about these things and *intellectualize* them, so later (bi-idhnillahi ta'aala) we may increase our understanding of these things and *absorb* what we know, and practice what we have learned. And it is only then when we will truly understand what all this is all about, and what all of this really means.
With this important disclaimer, let me begin insha Allah.
A human being is a complex creation of Allah (swt), who has several layers of existence. There is the most apparent level of existence, which is his (I'm going to use only the masculine third person from here on for the sake of brevity, although what is really meant is his/her ... I apologize if this is offensive to some of you) outward form. This includes his appearance, the way he talks, walks, does things ... actions of his limbs.
There is a level that is beyond this level though, and that is the level of his intellect. It is the intellect which directs the outward limbs of the human beings to perform the functions that they perform. The intellect (or aql) is like the executive officer of our bodies.
There is then another level even deeper than the level of the aql. This is the level of the qalb (heart). The qalb is the sovereign of our beings. It is the king and the limbs are its emissaries. It is the qalb from which the aql gets its feedback, before it executes any action through the limbs.
But where does the qalb get its input?
We know that the qalb is not always in a state of purity. We know this from the Qur'an, which talks about different types of qalb. Quloob (pl. qalb) that are dead. Quloob that are sick. And quloob that are saleem (sound) and muneeb and so on.
We also know that every child is born into a state of fitrah, so we all start out the same way. But then something happens which changes the state of our qalb to one of the several different states mentioned above. So there must be some sort of *input* for the qalb, which causes it to change. Where does that input come from?
The answer to this is two-fold, because the qalb receives its input from two separate entities.
The first of these is the ruh (spirit/soul). This is that part of us which was breathed into us by Allah (swt) (and because of *this* fact, the essence of the ruh is that it is pure and angelic). This is also that part of us which leaves our bodies when we die, and continues to live when our bodies cease to do so. This is also that part of us about which the Prophet (pbuh) was asked and his reply was, as taught to Him by Allah (swt), that he has not been given much knowledge of it. The ruh's input to the qalb is always good and pure. Because that is its essence. So the ruh commands the heart to seek nearness to Allah (swt), to worship Him, to obey Him, to fear Him, to love Him and so on.
The second entity which gives input to the qalb is the nafs (inner self). The nafs itself has two parts. One part of it is good and angelic. The other part of it is beast-like and devilish. These two parts have the capacity to overshadow each other at any given time. And thus, if the nafs is dominated by its angelic nature, then the input that is fed to the qalb, more often than not, is good. However, if the nafs is dominated by its beast-like and devilish nature, then the input that is fed to the qalb, more often than not, is bad. It is important to note though that both of these parts of the nafs *always* exist in every person. Even in the most righteous of people, the beast-like/devilish part of the nafs is there. It may be dormant, but it's there. And thus it has the capacity of being awakened at any time (although it may be more difficult, or even next to impossible, because of the strong dominance of the other part of their nafs).
So the input that the qalb receives from the ruh is *always* pure and good. The input that it receives from the nafs, however, depends on what the state of that nafs is! And that can be either good or bad. Therefore, in essence, the state of the qalb really depends on the state of the nafs. Because that is the only variable piece of input for it. And recall that the qalb is the sovereign of our existence, and our entire beings do good if the qalb commands good, and evil if our qalb commands evil.
So what about the nafs? What are some of its beast-like characteristics? This is not a difficult question to answer. Think about the kinds of things that a beast does. It eats, defecates, mates and sleeps. The beast is an icon of *inner desires*. This is the characteristic of the beast-like part of our nafs. It wants to eat all the time. Sleep all the time. Mate all the time. Moreover, the devil-like nature of our nafs tells us to disobey Allah (swt), to seek power and fame to boost our egos, hurt others for no good reason, and so on.
Again, these tendencies are there in each and every one of our nufoos (pl. nafs). However, they can be suppressed by the angelic part of our nafs, which tells us things that are similar to what the ruh tells us.
So I hope that we all understand that there are really two parts *within* (i.e. within the nafs of) every human being. One part which is good, and commands it to do good. The other which is bad, and commands it to do bad. However, it is not the nafs that really commands us to do anything directly. That is what the qalb does. Nevertheless, the qalb feeds off of the nafs (partially) and thus it is really the state of the nafs which affects our actions and thoughts.
Thoughts! I didn't talk about thoughts yet did I?
Thoughts originate both from within our nufoos as well as from outside sources. And thus, the state of our nafs does have an effect on what kinds of thoughts come to us, but not always. The other source for these thoughts, or whisperings, are the Shaytaan and the Angels.
Once again, we have two kinds of sources. Bad and good. The Shaytaan whispers to us bad thoughts while the Angels whisper to us good thoughts. These thoughts then enter into our nufoos, and then redirected to our quloob. Then, based on the state of our qalb (dead, sick, saleem, muneeb, etc), these thoughts are either suppressed and forgotten, or are translated into actions.
So what shaytaan does is whisper to us various kinds of thoughts. Shaytaan is clever, and thus attacks us at our weakest spots. To those who have quloob that are very sound, he attacks in a manner different from the manner in which he attacks those whose quloob are sick. For example, there may be a person who does not pray regularly, because his heart is too blemished and weak to command his limbs to get up and pray on a regular basis (because of the dominance of the beast-like tendencies of his nafs). However, there may be a momentary shift of balance within his nafs, when the angelic part of his nafs overcomes the beast-like part (this shift of balance can occur through different means, one of which may be the whisperings of the Angels that I talked about earlier, etc.) When this momentary shift occurs, Shaytaan comes and tries to restore things the way they were before, by whispering this person bad thoughts -- "oh you still have time till the next prayer, but remember you still haven't done such and such which is urgent"; "oh you're feeling hungry aren't you? why don't you get something to eat frist?" etc. See what happens here? He's trying to awaken the beast-like part of our nafs again so that it can take over the angelic part once again. But he succeeds with this manner only with a person whose heart is weak and sick. To a person with a sound heart, these whisperings have little effect. To this person, he attacks in a different way. For example, "did you make wudoo? are you sure? think again? maybe you broke it? maybe you should make wudoo again!" Then the person makes wudoo again, and then ... "did you really make wudoo properly? did the water reach every part of your face? make sure! don't you feel a little dryness there close to your earlobes? no, you didn't do it properly .. do it again!" The person may continue to make wudoo until he delays the prayer! Or if he does pray, then he may pray with a sense of restlessness, because he is trying to think whether or not his wudoo was perfect!
There are many *ways* in which the Shaytaan deceives us. He comes to us with different ways, from different sides. And he doesn't give up easily. He'll try one method and be defeated. He'll return again though, with another method. Again and again, he'll try to shift the balance in our nafs. However, he cannot change the *nature* of our nafs. It remains the same. He can only change the stimulant for the nafs (whisperings), that's it. (I think this is *part* of the answer to mwishka's question in the "nafs" therad, walahu a'lam). In fact, the methods of Shaytaan are so many that Ibn al-Jawzee wrote a whole book on it! [i]Talbees Iblees[/i] (The Devil's Deception). In his book, he (rahimahullah) talks about the way in which Iblees (Satan) leads astray those that are great worshippers of Allah (swt) (aabideen), and those bestowed with great knowledge (ulemaa), and those ascetics who give up this life for the sake of the Hereafter (zuhhaad) , etc.
The way to fight the whisperings of Shaytaan is to have a pure, strong and sound heart. And the way to have a pure and sound heart is through the purification of one's nafs. So it only gives good feedback to the heart, and does so constantly.
And how do you purify the nafs?
- Through gaining beneficial knowledge (the most important of which is the knowledge of the *existence* of
Allah, and what He is all about: what are His Attributes and Qualities, what He likes and dislikes, what is
His relationship with us, and so on).
- Through following the commandments of the Qur'an and imitating the implementation of them by the Prophet
- Through constant and sincere repentance from Allah (swt) for our shortcomings and errors.
- Through constant inner struggle to maintain and increase our nearness to Allah (swt)
- Through constant remembrance of Allah (swt) on our tongues and in our hearts.
(and the best of it is the Qur'an).
- Through supplication and prayer to Allah (swt) to keep us on the Straight Path.
- and so on ...
All of these things have to be done with a lot of focus. And there has to be a constant review of the state of our inner selves, and whether we are improving or not. And whether we are moving towards that state of total submission to Allah (swt), with our limbs as well as our quloob and nufoos or not.
May Allah (swt) help us purify our nufoos and keep our quloob firm and steadfast and upright. Ameen.
I conclude with this insha Allah. Once again, this was only meant to be a glimpse of an introduction to the inner sciences. I realize that I have left many holes, and not spent a lot of time organizing this post to make it easier for you to understand. But this was done partially to force you to delve deeper into this topic on your own. And also because of what I said earlier, that this topic is really not beneficial if you simply intellectualize it. It has to be absorbed ... internalized, and then implemented.
If any of you want to add anything to what I have said, or correct anything, please feel free to do so. Hopefully what I have done here is created some awareness of something real that exists, and a topic on which our ulemaa spent a great deal of their time and wrote many books about! Indeed, cleansing of our nufoos is one of *the* main reasons why Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was even sent to mankind, as Allah (swt) himself says: "He is the one who sent among the unlettered people a Messenger from among them who rehearses unto them His Signs, and purifies/cleanses them, and teaches them the Book and Wisdom ..."
And Allah (swt) also tells us about the importance of purifying our nufoos in Surah Al-Shams, where He takes 11 consecutive oaths and follows them by saying "Indeed he has achieved feilcity who purifies [his nafs] and he has failed who corrupts it." There's *many* more examples of the importance of this topic from the Qur'an and the ahadith of the Prophet (pbuh), but insha Allah these will suffice for now.
I ask Allah (swt) to forgive me if I said something which is wrong. Astaghfirullah.
Wassalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
|06/03/02 at 16:32:05|
|Re: nafs, ruh, qalb, shaytaan, and us!|
|06/03/02 at 18:38:58|
|bro abu hamza,|
i greatly appreciate the time and thoughtfulness you gave us to offer this great explanation. it definitely cleared up a couple of things for me - like "ruh", when i heard hamza yusuf say "nafs" was soul, but thought it was something else...
yes, as you can guess, i have a question. (i THINK it's an easy one.... :) ) i remembered reading somewhere about four nafs, so i just went to meccacentric to the descriptions of dr. maghraoui's tapes and checked on it. yep, one of the descriptions says there are four nafs, or lower selves: cattle-like, predator-like, satanic-like, and angelic-like. i haven't heard this tape, and have only heard him talk on window on islam, at local lectures, and had some personal discussion with him - so, in other words, i really don't know what i'm talking about here.... ;) would this mean that there are two "categories" of nafs, as you explained them, but that one category is 3/4 (the bad nafs) and one category is only 1/4 (the good one)? if that's the case, it's an even more difficult situation than having just two "equal" dissenting forces in there! :( amything you can add to clear this part up?
|Re: nafs, ruh, qalb, shaytaan, and us!|
|06/03/02 at 20:32:01|
| :o :o :o :o :o|
< < < < < < < does anyone, um, see anything, um, maybe more than just a little, um, peculiar over here??
methinks the means by which i obtained that, um, "status", i.e., wordiness, is, in fact, um, a less than desirable trait in islam, and is not REALLY the means by which one can obtain that, um, designation. should i get something else? or am i "honorary"?
|Re: nafs, ruh, qalb, shaytaan, and us!|
|06/03/02 at 21:11:25|
|mwishka, the classifications of the nafs vary with different people. Some people classify it into 4 parts as you have mentioned, by further dividing the [i]lower[/i] aspect of the nafs into 3 separate parts - predatorial, cattle-like and satanic. It's not really a 3/4 vs. 1/4 hurdle, because there is one more variable that I did not talk about and that is the Rahmah [Mercy] of Allah (swt) which greatly helps the angelic part of our nafs to overshadow everything else. However, what is essential to remember here is that the nafs has both tendencies - evil and good. And our task, with the help of Allah (swt), is to strengthen the better tendencies of our nafs (ie those tendencies that help us attain the purpose of our lives - pursuing uboodiyyah [servitude] to Allah (swt)) and suppress its lower tendencies.|
The Albanyians can probably expand on this a little more, since they're the ones that are in constant contact with Shaykh Mokhtar :)
|Re: nafs, ruh, qalb, shaytaan, and us!|
|06/05/02 at 12:29:34|
|Asalamu Alykum wa RhamtuAllah,|
SubhanAllah, a beautiful article Bro Abu_ Hamza. I have just recently come to realize how important it is to
have a sound heart. It is only through this awesome awarness of Allah(swt) and guarding the inroads leading to the Qalb
that one can attain it. And its soo true that how its through constant rememberance of Allah(swt). How when we are in the
company of people of taqwa our Imaan starts to go up and this feeling of serenity overcomes. It is amazing that either
are Imaan is going up or down it can't stay still and its all directly dependent on our Qalb.
One of the most fascinating things i came acorss recently was the fact that how in old times people didn't have heart
attacks. if we think about it our heart literally dies.. anyways there you have it my dispersed thoughts. ;)
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