The Lantern of Guidance 

Chapter 3

Section 3

Ma’refat (Gnosis) of Some Attributes of the Nafs (Psyche)

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Know that the source for all blameworthy characteristics and the root for all foul behavior within the human being is the Nafs (Psyche), in contrast the source for all praiseworthy characteristics and the root for all fine behavior is the Rooh (Soul).

Perhaps the top worst blameworthy characteristic and foulest behavior, is the desires’ Aboodiyat (Servitude). Nafs perpetually strives to indulge the pleasure of the senses, providing them with what intrinsically they crave for, committing to obey the desires in most agreeable fashion, therefore sharing the exclusive serfdom & obeisance to the Lord with the desires. Thus spoke the Nass (Lection) of the glorious words, “Then seest thou such a one as takes as his god his own vain desire?” (Koran [45:23]) and this characteristic of the human being arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is Zohd (Asceticism) or Mahab-bat (Divine Love).

Another characteristic is hypocrisy. In most situations the exterior of the Nafs and its interior, in absence or in presence of the people are not the same. In presence of the people Nafs (Psyche) praises them with such seemingly true friendship and in their absence Nafs (Psyche) does the opposite. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is truth & veracity within the person.

Another characteristic is Ria (Menpleasing, Showing off). Nafs (Psyche) constantly adorns itself in the eyes of the people with what pleases them, even though those maybe shameful with the Lord e.g. accumulating wealth, boasting about wealth, arrogance, pomp and aggression. Moreover Nafs (Psyche) avoids all that which are blameworthy with the people, even though they may be praised by the Lord e.g. Faqr (Poverty), humility and meekness. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is Ma’refat (Gnosis) of the lowliness of the Nafs. For that reason the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said, “There is no Kamaal (Perfection) for the man’s Iman (Faith) until people are like camels to him”. (This means when the man does a good deed the eyes of the people are like the eyes of the animals to him i.e. he has no benefit from impressing them like there is no benefit or pleasure in impressing a camel)

Abu-Bakr Warraq said, “Nafs (Psyche) wallows in Ria (Menpleasing, Showing off) in all situations, a hypocrite in most situations and a Moshrik (Polytheist) in some situations”. Menpleasing Nafs (Psyche) is like fire, shows off the good attribute i.e. the light and hides the evil attribute i.e. the heat. However the karat of Nafs’s (Psyche’s) purity is not concealed from the analytic eyes of the wise who can measure by the scale of trials as have been said, “The similitude of the Nafs (Psyche) is like still clear water as soon as you wave it, reveals the bottom dirty sediments”. As much as Nafs (Psyche) attempts to show off beauty while hiding the ugliness, its ugliness is hidden only for the short sighted folk and the immature that can be fooled by surface characteristics. Those with sound vision not only see the ugliness of the Nafs (Psyche) they also see more ugliness when it attempts to beautify itself. Like the example of an old ugly woman who may wear beautiful colorful cloths that may fool some children about her lack of beauty but the adults know better and are repulsed by her attempts to deceive.

Another characteristic is claim to Uluhiya (Divinity) i.e. competing & opposing the Lord. Since Nafs (Psyche) perpetually desires & demands from the people to praise & admire it, to obediently conform to its wants & prohibitions meanwhile ceaselessly loving it. Nafs (Psyche) demands to be feared and all people to grasp at its mercy. These are similar to how the Lord demands that Its slaves to seek It and due to these characteristics there is a conflict between the Nafs (Psyche) and the Lord. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is Tajalli (Manifestation) of the Divine Sifat (Attributes). (This is when the dervish what of the power, greatness and glory finds around him attributes them to the Lord not to some created object and what of mercy, blessing and beauty he finds attributes them to the Lord again. Because from the power & glory to mercy & beauty these are the extracts derived from the Divine Attributes (Sifat))

Another characteristic is wondering with self-admiration. Constantly the Nafs (Psyche) beholds with admiration its own goodness and reads itself with the eyes of greatness and satisfaction. And if a tiny bit of goodness emanates from him to someone, shall place a heavy weight upon the person and drowns him within his benevolence for years to come. On the contrary if huge sums of goodness comes to him from another, he does not give much credit and soon forgets the favor. And this characteristic is one of the major sources of death for man as was said by the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, “There are three deaths: miserliness, obeying the desires and wondering with admiration for the Nafs (Psyche)”. Again in another Hadith (Prophetic Narration), “Indeed befalls destruction upon the man that wonders & admires his Nafs (Psyche) and magnifies his good deeds and down plays his wrong doings”. Abu-Bakr Waseti said, “The Nafs (Psyche) is an idol, glancing upon it is Shirk (Polytheism), musing it is Ibaada (Worship)”. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is the Ma’refat (Gnosis) of Nafs’s (Psyche’s) lowliness.

Another characteristic is miserliness. Whatsoever of wealth, belongings, goodness and pleasures he clasps at so hard and would never let go of, either due to hoarding & boasting or fear of poverty and need. And once this attributes grows strong within the Nafs (Psyche), it begets Hasad (Envy). Hasad (Envy) is to be miserly for what belongs to others. He wishes no good to be exchanged between two people. And if he sees a person with a blessing wishes deterioration & loss for that blessing. And again if this becomes too powerful within the Nafs (Psyche) hate & spite appears i.e. if he sees someone equal to him in some blessing or someone that is distinguished in some blessing, constantly wishes the destruction of the blessing and the death of the person. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is the subjugation by the luminosity of the Yaqin (Doubtless Certainty for the Divine). (These feelings appear through the Nafs (Psyche) because the man has doubts within with regards to Allah Almighty. So if you are envious of someone or feel too attached to your belongings, it means you are doubting Allah.)

Another characteristic is the covetousness & gluttony. Nafs (Psyche) is constantly seeking the indulgence & pleasure of the prolonged desires, therefore cannot economize, balance or truncate the effects of these indulgences. The example of the gluttony of the Nafs (Psyche) is that of a moth flying around a candle, the light of the candle does not satiate him thus even in presence of the knowledge of fire’s harm the moth dives into the flame and burns to death. Much the same manner, in spite of the injuries inflicted upon the Nafs (Psyche) still the greed overpowers it until such time death catches up. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there are righteousness & piety.

Another characteristic is being frivolous and thoughtless. Nafs (Psyche) is constant upon nothing. As soon as some whiff of desires or desirable talk or action may enter it, without any restraint approves of that thought or desire and rushes upon such endeavor. Some scholars likened the Nafs (Psyche) to a ball on an inclined surface, doubtless & perpetually in motion. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is patience.

Another characteristic is speeding towards the melancholy & sorrow. Nafs (Psyche) fills with sorrow fast, facing every disagreeable situation. And his false suspicions & worries cause him to forsake the current situation and run towards another with the hope of better gain. However unbeknownst to him there is no haven for him to seek refuge within from his false suspicions & worries. Since in most affairs the reality is against what he desires. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is the dutiful establishment of the Shokr (Gratitude).

Another characteristic is laziness & idleness. As Nafs (Psyche) was rushing thoughtlessly towards the indulgence of the desires, when it comes to piety & worship it becomes lazy & procrastinating. And this characteristic arises from the Nafs (Psyche) unless there is much Riadha (Taming the desires through meditation) and much hard work to eject the low-energy tendencies out of him and to soften him to accept the Divine Edict & Commandments like the softening of the leather skin. As was said in the Nass (Lection) of the Majestic Words, “Then their skins and their hearts do soften to the celebration of Allah’s praises” (Koran [39:23]).

Each one of the above said characteristics is an ailment exclusive to the Nafs (Psyche). And the healers of the Nafs (Psyche) i.e. the prophets and the Awlia (Divine Patricians) who follow them know a specific cure for each ailment. There is a lot more shameful characters of the Nafs (Psyche) that cannot be fit in this treatise. The above said ten characteristics were the fundamental ones and from each many branches may stretch out. Anyone who would research in details a given ailment of the Nafs (Psyche) can indeed discover its source.


© 2004-2002,  Dara O. Shayda