Knowingly or unknowingly we go about our daily lives struggling with what is within us. Despite knowing what is good and what isn’t, we still find ourselves wronging our souls. This struggle is an individual one, and is different from person to person. But whatever the wrong is, the wrong leads to disobeying Allah. And that is what makes it a struggle because we KNOW we shouldn’t be disobeying Him (swt)
We all have different ways of remaining steadfast and grounded, but we are human and we make mistakes. Understanding what the nafs is and how we can work to make it obedient can help with the struggle. I recently learnt that Allah tells us about three very distinct kinds of souls in the Quran.
• Nafs al Ammara Bissu (The soul which commands)
This nafs is one that brings punishment itself. By its very nature it directs its owner towards every wrong action. Allah uses the example of how Zulekha was with Prophet Yusuf (as) to talk about this particular nafs. (12:53)
• Nafs al Lawwama (The soul that blames) (75:2)
This nafs is conscious of its own imperfections. Hasan al Basri described this nafs saying: “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?'”
• Nafs al Mutma’inna (The soul at Peace) (89:27)
This soul is tranquil as it rests in the certitude of Allah. Ibn Abbas said “It is the tranquil and believing soul”.
Immediately I fell in love with the third nafs. Learning about this made me wonder how I could use it to better myself and shape my nafs according the teachings of Islam.
A few days later whilst Yusra was playing in front of the mirror (one of her favourite pastimes) I thought how interesting our own reflection is to us. We make sure we check whether we’re presentable when we go out of the house and the more vain of us may even spend more time than needed in front of a mirror. And that’s when I thought imagine how ugly I’d look if I could see my nafs (according to the ones Allah tells us about) instead of my reflection. The thought freaked me out a little and I thought maybe I could use that as a way to remember the nafs that is most loved by Allah and try and work towards it. So now when I see my reflection with it I see my nafs too and reflect on how I’m purifying it.
“… By the soul and (by) Him who made it perfect, and then inspired it to understand what is wrong and what is right for it. Truly is successful the one who purifies (his soul)” (91:7-9)