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How to Control Nafs in Islam

A man sits on a prayer mat and asks God for help to control his self.
Nafs is central to human identity and spiritual growth. This blog offers step-by-step guidance on self-improvement and discovering your inner self, on a journey of self-understanding and enhancement.

Nafs Meaning

Nafs is an Arabic word occurring in the Quran 295 times, literally meaning “self”, and has been translated as “psyche”, “ego” or “soul”. It is a concept that is deeply rooted in Islamic theology and spirituality. Nafs is a combination of both good and bad which can be controlled by one’s self. The Quran describes Jihad as the struggle that occurs during the soul’s development and to control nafs in Islam between the Nafs and the Ruh.

What is Nafs in Islam

Nafs about who you are inside. It is a complex concept that encompasses various aspects of the human experience such as moral, spiritual, or psychological aspects. The Nafs are the core of human identity and personality, and it is viewed as an essential component of the human journey toward spiritual growth and fulfillment. In this blog, we’ll explore as step by step. We’ll learn how to control Nafs in Islam and become a better person. Nafs is like a treasure map for finding your inner self. So, let’s start our journey to understand and improve ourselves.

Types of Nafs

There are 7 stages of Nafs as follows:

1. Nafs Ammara (The Evil Commanding Self)

This is the lowest stage of the nafs, where the self is inclined towards evil and base desires. This means that the nafs command us and tell us what to do. So, when the nafs feel any appetite, wish, or desire, they simply offer us commands and dominate over us. That nafs is sovereign over human beings, and it has sovereignty over us.

Allah Almighty says;

Quranic Ayat about Nafs Ammara

And I do not acquit myself. Indeed, the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful. (Surah Yusuf 12:53)

In general, there are two levels to this Evil Commanding Self.

(a) Nafs Al-Hayawaniyya (The Animal State)

This is the self that pursues sensual desires and material possessions without regard to what is right or wrong, reasonable or unfair, or legal or illegal. The pleasures of riches, sex, and ornaments overshadow it. It dislikes religion and is self-centered. It has no concept of fullness, modesty, gratitude, honor, or manners.

(b) Nafs Al Islamiyyah (The Satanic Self)

It is even lower than the Animal Self because it has become so in love with itself that it now challenges Allah’s divinity and lordship.

2. Nafs Lawwama (The Blaming Self)

At this stage, the self becomes aware of its faults and shortcomings. It feels remorse and guilt for its sinful actions and begins to question its behavior. This is the self that has been touched by Allah’s Mercy, so when it disobeys or commits a sin, it goes to its Sustainer for pardon and repents. After that, it holds to obedience until it reverts to sin, at that point it seeks forgiveness, repentance, and so on.

Allah Almighty says;

Quranic Ayat about Nafs Lawwama

and then their feet are tied together in a shroud. (Surah Al-Qiyamah 75)

3. Nafs Mulhima (The Inspired Self)

In the state of Nafs al Lawwamah, the soul is pure, obedient to the Divine, and free from sinful desires. Achieving it requires self-awareness and effort, but deeper progress depends on Allah’s mercy. One may reach a point of sincere purification through earnest attempts and prayer.

4. Nafs Mutmainnah (The Secure Self)

Through self-reflection, resistance, and devotion, the Secure Self finds healing and protection in Allah. This deepens the conviction that Allah is the ultimate source and inspiration, leading to trust and confidence in His kindness and generosity. The self learns to rely on Allah as the best trustee and sustainer, finding ultimate security and peace.

In this regard Allah Almighty says;

Quranic Ayat about Nafs Mutmainnah

Those who believe and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort. (Surah Ar-Ra’d Ayat 28)

5. Nafs Radiyyh (the Content Self)

Nafs Al Radiyah is the highest state of the soul, marked by contentment and submission to Allah’s will. It represents the ultimate goal of a believer’s spiritual journey, reflecting deep faith, trust, and inner peace in divine wisdom.

6. Nafs Mardiyya (The Gratified Self)

Nafs Mardiyya refers to a state of the self where one is content and satisfied with oneself. It is a state of inner peace and harmony that comes from being in alignment with one’s true self, values, and purpose in life.

Quranic Ayat about Nafs Mardiyya

Return to your Lord, well pleased with Him and well-pleasing to Him. (Surah Fajr Ayat 28)

7. Nafs Safiyya (The Complete Self)

The “Station of Beauty” is the highest level of faith, where the servant embodies beauty and love for Allah, His Messenger, and loved ones. It’s the culmination of the self’s journey, characterized by boundless ascent and refinement. The Completed Self reflects the Prophetic Muhammadan (S.A.W.) self, fully embracing love and servanthood.

Quranic Ayat about Nafs Safiyya

O believers! Whoever among you abandons their faith, Allah will replace them with others who love Him and are loved by Him. They will be humble with the believers but firm towards the disbelievers, struggling in the Way of Allah; fearing no blame from anyone. This is the favor of Allah. He grants it to whoever He wills. And Allah is All-Bountiful, All-Knowing. (Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayat 54)

How to Control Nafs

Control nafs in Islam is a lifelong journey that requires self-discipline, self-awareness, and continuous effort. Here are some strategies to help you in controlling your nafs:

1. Self-Reflection

Take time for self-reflection regularly to understand your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. This self-awareness will help you identify patterns and triggers related to your nafs.

2. Identifying Negative Traits

Be aware of negative traits or characteristics that are associated with your nafs, such as arrogance, envy, greed, and anger. Identify these traits and consciously work towards reducing or eliminating them from your behavior.

3. Seek knowledge

Learn about spirituality, self-improvement, and personal growth. Knowledge helps in understanding the nafs better and guides how to control nafs in Islam. Engage in reading spiritual books, attending lectures, or seeking guidance from knowledgeable individuals.

Practice Mindfulness

Engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing, and being present in the moment. This helps in developing self-awareness and reducing the influence of the nafs on your thoughts and actions.

Seek Spiritual Guidance

Seek guidance from spiritual mentors or teachers who can provide insights and guidance on controlling the nafs. They can offer support, advice, and practices to help you in your journey.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the concept of nafs refers to the ego or lower self that can often lead to negative behaviors and traits. However, through self-discipline, self-awareness, and continuous effort, it is possible to control and transform the nafs. Control nafs in Islam require self-reflection, identifying negative traits, practicing self-discipline, seeking knowledge, practicing mindfulness, cultivating positive qualities, surrounding oneself with positive influences, and seeking spiritual guidance. Ultimately, by controlling the nafs, we can attain a higher level of self-awareness, inner fulfillment, and well-being, leading to a more balanced and meaningful life.

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