Ishārāt Wa Tanbihāt (Pointings and Awarenesses)

Spoken Words 1: Tabi’iyāt (Philosophy of Organism)
Namat (Formal Argument) 3:
Explanation of Terrestrial and Celestial Nafs (Self)

Discussion   Join   

See Also:  

Chapter 1

Tanbih (Awareness)

Come to your Nafs (Self), and ponder, when you are healthy or even when you are not, from the view point of awareness for an object, a true awareness, then are you ignorant of Wujud (being-ness) of your own Nafs (Self), and cannot prove/establish your own Nafs? Even a sleeper while asleep or a drunk while drunk, is not far away from his Nafs (Self), even though has lost touch with his own essence.

And if you assume that your Nafs (Self) was suddenly created, its primordial creation, with valid ‘Aql (Intellect) and physical form, and again if you could assume that you have such formation that you cannot see your own limbs/organs and cannot even touch them as if they are momentarily suspended in air, you shall find out that you would be ignorant of all things except your Anāniah (I-ness).

Note: Al-Anāniah is a term roughly means Self-Importance or Persona or Ego. According to Sheikh Suhrawardi founder of the Philosophy of Ishrāq (Illuminism) Al-Anāniah is a Singleton Divine Light shining upon the universe and human beings, a Self-Understander (Mudrik) Light conscious of itself, forming some kind of consciousness about one’s Self one’s own existence (so you can say ‘I …’). (Source Sajjadi’s Sufi Terminologies)


Part of the research by Dr. Hasan Malekshāhi:

Here Ibn Sinā wants to show that the Nafs (Self) is not a component e.g. like hands or eyes and indeed it is something in and of herself (In Arabic Nafs is a female name) and she exists independent of anything else in the universe. And moreover he asserts, by using the example of the sleeper and the drunk, that there is no way to be unaware of the Nafs (Self) or far away from it.  

In Ibn Sinā’s mind there is nothing more evident or obvious than that of Anāniah (I-ness)! And Anāniah (I-ness) is an inseparable part of the Nafs (Self) or the consequent or whatever other phrase you may choose to describe your I-ness vs. Self. Therefore the very fact that you say ‘I am thirsty’ begets the proof/awareness: Beyond doubt and any thinking or observation there is an ‘I’ and because of the Nafs (Self) has the Appetition for things e.g. water. Had they not being there, then there would have been no way to say ‘I’ or ‘am thirsty’. Such an I-less creature would have died from thirst millions of years ago.

To conclude, as Ibn Sinā sees, there is no need for research or thinking to understand Nafs (Self), just be truly conscious and aware. There is nothing more evident than Nafs (Self) and there is no knowledge that is a buffer between her and the human ‘Aql (Intellect).

In his thought-experience, Ibn Sinā wants you to assume as following:

1.    You are suddenly created without any a priori experience or knowledge
2.    You are perfectly formed but somehow you cannot see or feel the organs of your body
3.    You are suspended in mid-air

Even in this improbable form of seclusion, you say: ‘I am’, in other words you may not be conscious of your hands or your feet but you are well conscious of a peculiar ‘reality’: Nafs (Self) + I-ness.

Nafs (Self) has only one discernable characteristic i.e. you are aware of it—Awareness.

Human being can lose awareness and cognizance of anything e.g. as does an Alzheimer patient, but s/he can never lose the cognizance of the Nafs (Self), s/he never loses the reference ‘I’, though may not be able to recall the signifier of that ‘I’ i.e. his/her name—I-ness could be nameless but it is moveless.

Chapter 2

Tanbih (Awareness)

Within this moment, before and after, how do you ‘Idrāk (Grasp, Prehend) your Nafs (Self)? And what is the Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subject that Prehends) for your Dhāt (Essence)? (He is asking for the instrumentation needed for grasping the Nafs, if there is any?)

Could it be one of your senses? Your ‘Aql (Intellect, Mind)? Or perhaps another force? (Are senses or the mind the instruments to grasp the Nafs (Self)?)

If ‘Aql (Intellect, Mind) was the answer (Grasper of the Nafs (Self)) does it need any middle-agent (negotiating with Nafs for interface)? I suspect that you need no middle-agent (for grasping the Nafs (Self)) since there is no such middle-agent!

So the assumption remains that you need no other force and no other middle-agent to ‘Idrāk (Grasp, Prehend) the essence of your Nafs (Self). Please do look very carefully if you need any?


You may say that the Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) of Nafs (Self) is ‘recursive’: ‘I’ understand ‘my Self’! And there is no middle-agent that does negotiation for interfacing the Nafs (Self). Here, by ‘negotiation’ we mean a computing term: two objects exchanging data or messages need a middle-agent e.g. network or memory or calling-stack, and a protocol to transport the negotiations between them and finally transport the data/messages. Example: your hand touching a stone must use the nerves within the skin, the molecular forces of both stone and nerves and some process of negotiation taking place between the nerves and the stone vis-à-vis the cells/brain and finally we sense something of the stone.

Ibn Sinā claims there is no such process for sensing or feeling the Nafs (Self) since she is the very foundation of our existence and she is fully independent of senses and the mind.

A simple computing code may show elucidate the recursion of I-ness and Nafs:

    Invoke I

    Invoke Nafs

This procedural recursion has no termination predicate. Nafs invokes ‘I’ so ‘I know I am Dara’ and not Hind or Wendy, and meanwhile ‘I’ invokes Nafs so I have appetite, desire, honesty, dishonesty and etc—Nafs giving ‘I’ all its peculiarities. Again Nafs invokes ‘I’ to see these peculiarities to move the human being towards some destiny and ‘I’ invokes Nafs to support the peculiarities in physical, physiological or even spiritual realms.

Chapter 3

Tanbih (Awareness)

Can you understand what is your Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subject that Prehends)? Your skin or your eyes? No! Even if your skin is removed and you are given another skin, ‘you are you’!

As we said earlier the Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subject that Prehends) is not any part of your body or your mind.

Your Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subject that Prehends) is not the sum of all your parts either.

That your Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subject that Prehends) is something else, some object other than what we discussed here. And these other objects e.g. skin and eye, you do not ‘Idrāk (Grasp, Prehend) (as) you (really) meant to be the Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subject that Prehends) of your own Dhāt (Essence).

And these other objects e.g. skin and eyes, are not necessary for ‘you being you’.

Your true Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subjective that Prehends) is not the grasp of your physical senses, as we shall mention


Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subjective that Prehends) or Idrāk is a Wujud (Being-ness) in and out of itself, and it is not related to any of our physical senses or organs.

This type of Mudrik (Understander, Grasper, Subject that Prehends), capable of reaching to our Nafs (Self), is rendered as in the form of I-ness: ‘I’ is the subjective-form of a Prehension that is basically the how-ness of the grasp of our non-Physical existence, in other words through I-ness we can grasp what we are—our Wujud (Being-ness)—in the other universe, and otherwise an impossibility.

Chapter 5

Ishārat (Pointing towards a concept)

Human being is motioned by an entity that is other than him and is not his or physicality or physiology.  (Physiology means the continuous processes and functions of an organism)

Some other object, not physical or physiological, that in most cases (physicality and physiology) prevents him from motioning, indeed the origin of the human motion is within his Nafs (Self). (When you exert yourself at work your physiology goes against the exertion, when you fast your physiology goes against your spirituality)

Moreover human being Idrāk (Grasps, Prehends) with something other than his physicality and other than his physiology, the very physiology that even cannot grasp another physiological entity, and how can it grasp its opposite i.e. (physical or physiological grasping) something spiritual?

Human physiology is amidst opposites that are fighting each other, and that force which integrates all these opposite elements is also something other than the physiology itself. (We function living while moving towards the opposite halt of all functions i.e. death)

How can physiology be the cause for human motion? (Since all motions are towards the death and halting of the physiological processes!)

Therefore the force that keeps/integrates the opposites for physiology is called Nafs (Self)—An entirely different entity.

And Nafs (Self) is a Jawhar (Intrinsic Essence) that first takes over your bodily parts and then your entire physical and physiological being.


Human physicality and physiology have inertia meaning they are against the motion of human being both within the time-space as well as within the spiritual realm. Ibn Sinā recognizes this inertia within and sees it as the ultimate proof that there must be some othe unknown force that causes the human being move into the directions that he motions to and calls this integrating engulfing force Nafs (Self).

From Ibn Sinā’s Risālat Nafs: Nafs is the perfection of the physical and physiological being-ness. And not all such being have Nafs e.g. manufactured items like wood or door or raw materials like fire or water. And when a physical or physiological being is perfected via the Nafs then that object is an Ālat (Instrument) for Nafs so Nafs can manipulate it and make it do things. And these Nafs-induced motions of the object are peculiar and exclusive to Nafs and cannot be motioned without the presence of Nafs.

In other words the physical and physiological being is under the control and direction of Nafs (Self) so they are motioned towards a controlled destination, and how could these physicality and physiology be used to grasp and manipulate the Nafs (Self)?

Chapter 6

Ishārat (Pointing towards a concept)
Therefore this Jawhar i.e. Nafs (Self) within you is singular. (Many people have claimed human being could have several Nafses (Selves))

Indeed in reality she i.e. Nafs (Self) is ‘you’. (Meaning Nafs is the origin of your I-ness, if there were several Nafses (Selves) then you sensed several I-ness which is impossible. This is not negated dealing with multiple-personality disorder, this deals with the feel of ‘I am’ no matter which persona the occupies/rules the singular ‘I’)

And Nafs (Self) branches into all of your organs and members.

Repetitive interface between the Nafs (Self) and your members form some ordinary habits within this Jawhar (Intrinsic Essence). (Rough summarized translation)  

The reverse also happens where a deliberate action can originate from the Jawhar (Intrinsic Essence) of the Nafs (Self) and spread into your members and become actions. (Rough translation)


Chapter 7

Ishārat (Pointing towards a concept)
(We may wrongly think: ) Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) of an object takes place (possible), if there is a simile of its Haqiqa (Reality) with/within the Mudrik (Understander, Grasper), so that the entity that grasped the object can view it. (For example the concept of a ‘day’ or an ‘apple’, is something that a simile of it is possible and readily available)

(As well, the opposite is quite possible: ) Many of the geometrical objects that are possible within our mind but impossible in physical world. (Here we see a hint towards Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) of objects that can be grasped within our Nafs (Self) but have no possible materialisation. This makes it possible for human being to accumulate knowledge objects in another universe and yet they cannot exist in our physical universe!)

Or a reality within the Dhāt (Intrinsic Essence) of the Mudrik (Understander, Grasper) though it has no possible rendition to make it patent in physical universe, and that is everlasting. (Everlasting as in Eternal Objects of Alfred North Whitehead, I think?)  


 © 2005-2002,  Dara O. Shayda