Elementals and the Nafs of the Sufi's
- The elementals are also known in Islam, especially by the Sufi's.
Nafs is an Arabic word occurring in the Qur'an meaning self, psyche, ego or soul. Nafs is an important concept in the Islamic tradition, especially in Sufism, where in its unrefined state, "the ego (nafs) is the lowest dimension of man's inward existence, his animal and satanic nature."
In its primitive state the nafs has seven heads that must be defeated:
- False pride (Takabbur)
- Greed (Hirs)
- Envy (Hasad)
- Lust (Shahwah)
- Backbiting (Gheebah)
- Stinginess (Bokhl)
- Malice (Keena)
There are three principal stages of nafs which are specifically mentioned in the Qur'an. They are stages in the process of development, refinement and mastery of the nafs.
1. The inciting nafs (nafs-i-ammara)
In its primitive stage the nafs incites us to commit evil: this is the nafs as the lower self, the base instincts. In the eponymous Sura of the Qur'an, the prophet Yusef says "Yet I claim not that my nafs was innocent: Verily the nafs of man incites to evil."[Qur'an 12:53] Here he is explaining the circumstances in which he came to be falsely imprisoned for the supposed seduction of Zuleika.
Islam emphasises the importance of fighting nafs because the prophet Muhammad said after returning from a war, "We now return from the small struggle (Jihad Asghar) to the big struggle (Jihad Akbar)". His companions asked, "Oh prophet of God, what is the big struggle?" He replied, "The struggle against nafs."
The Qur'an enjoins the faithful "to hinder the nafs from lust",[Qur'an 79:40] and another hadith warns that "the worst enemy you have is [the nafs] between your sides." Rumi warns of the nafs in its guise of religious hypocrisy, saying "the nafs has a rosary and a Koran in its right hand, and a scimitar and dagger in the sleeve."
Animal imagery is often used to describe the nafs. A popular image is a donkey or unruly horse that must be trained and broken so that eventually it will bear its rider to the goal. Rumi compares the nafs to a camel which the hero Majnun, representing the intellect ('Aql), strains to turn in the direction of the dwelling-place of his beloved.
2. The self-accusing nafs (nafs-i-lawwama)
In Sura al-Qiyama the Qur'an mentions "the self-accusing nafs".[Qur'an 75:2] This is the stage where "the conscience is awakened and the self accuses one for listening to one's ego. One repents and asks for forgiveness." Here the nafs is inspired by your heart, sees the results of your actions, agrees with your brain, sees your weaknesses, and aspires to perfection.
2.1 The inspired nafs (nafs-i-mulhama)
It is the stage of action. On this level "one becomes more firm in listening to one's conscience, but is not yet surrendered." Once you have seen your weaknesses and have set your targets, this ego inspires you to do good deeds and to be on the plus side. The Sufis say that it is important that whenever you think of good, you must immediately act upon it. Abbas Bin Abdul Muttalib lays down three rules:
- Ta'Jeel or Swiftness. A good deed must be done immediately and there should be no laziness.
- Tehqeer or Contempt. You must look at your good acts with contempt otherwise you will become self-righteous.
- Ikhfa or Secrecy. You must keep your good acts secret otherwise people will praise you and it will make you self-righteous.
According to the Qur'an, charity should be given both secretly and openly. In Muhammad Asad's translation of the Qur'an, 14:31 reads: "[And] tell [those of] My servants who have attained to faith that they should be constant in prayer and spend [in Our way], secretly and openly, out of what We provide for them as sustenance, ere there come a Day when there will be no bargaining, and no mutual befriending."
3. The nafs at peace (nafs-i-mutma'inna)
In Sura al-Fajr the Qur'an mentions "the nafs at peace".[Qur'an 89:27] This is the ideal stage of ego for Sufis. On this level one is firm in one's faith and leaves bad manners behind. The soul becomes tranquil, at peace. At this stage Sufis have relieved themselves of all materialism and worldly problems and are satisfied with the will of God.
3.1 The pleased nafs (nafs-i-radiyya)
The stage comes after the 3rd principal stage. On this level "one is pleased with whatever comes from Allah and doesn't live in the past or future, but in the moment." "One thinks always: `Ilahi Anta Maqsudi wa ridhaka matlubi'. One always sees oneself as weak and in need of Allah."
3.2 The pleasing nafs (nafs-i-mardiyya)
On this level the two Ruhs in man "have made peace". "One is soft and tolerant with people and has good Akhlak, good manners."
3.3 The pure nafs (nafs-i-safiyya)
On this level "one is dressed in the attributes of the Insan Kamil, the perfected man, who is completely surrendered and inspired by Allah." One is "in full agreement with the Will of Allah".