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)
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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)?
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
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)
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
(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
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.