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Online Quran Academy - Islamic Mentors

How to Control Nafs in Islam


Nafs Meaning

“Nafs” is an Arabic term that appears in the Quran 295 times. It means “self”, and it has been translated into other languages as “psyche,” “ego,” or “soul.” Nafs is a concept that is deeply rooted in Islamic theology and spirituality. It is a combination of both good and bad, which can be controlled by oneself. The Quran describes Jihad as the struggle that occurs during the soul’s development and the process of controlling Nafs in Islam between the Nafs and the Ruh.

In our other blog, we discuss the Tawakkul in Islam

What is Nafs in Islam

Nafs is a significant concept in Islam that refers to the internal character of a person. It is a complex concept enclosing various aspects of the human experience, such as moral, spiritual, or psychological. 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. This concept might seem complex. But we’ll break it down step-by-step to help you understand yourself better and learn how to improve yourself based on Islamic teachings.

Also Read: Taqwa in Islam

Types of Nafs

There are 7 stages of Nafs as follows:

1. Nafs Ammara (The Evil Commanding Self)

The lowest stage of the nafs incites the self 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.

Read our blog, Slah: Second Pillar of Islam

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.

Dua to Control Nafs

Oh Allah, I seek protection in you from the evil of my hearing, from the evil of my sight, from the evil of my tongue, from the evil of my heart, and from the evil of myself.

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.


Can the “Nafs” be considered a test for believers in Islam?

Yes, the concept of “nafs” can be seen as a test for Muslims in Islam, as it requires constant effort and self-discipline to overcome its negative influences and tendencies.

What are some practical steps a Muslim can take to strengthen their resistance against the whims of the “Nafs”?

Muslims can strengthen their resistance against the whims of the “nafs” by engaging in acts of worship, seeking knowledge, practicing self-restraint, and surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals who encourage spiritual growth.

What Role does the Concept of “Nafs” Play in the Spiritual Development of a Muslim?

The concept of “nafs” serves as a central component in the spiritual development of a Muslim, as it involves striving to overcome worldly attachments and inclinations to achieve a higher state of spiritual consciousness.


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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