“The bird that escapes from the trap of its ego has no fear, wherever it may fly.”- Rumi
What is the Nafs?
The nafs (ego) is that dimension of man, which stands between the disengaged spirit (ruh) which is light, and the corporeal body (jism) which is darkness. (Al-Qamus)
This disengaged spirit is no other than the dominant, evil-whispering, and one’s tyrannical ego.
A lover should be watchful enough of his tyrannical self because once he is afflicted by the syndrome of nafs attack, he will suffer more than dying in a heart attack.
In the mystical world of Islam, the mystics recognize the seven stages of nafs in mankind:
First, the Nafs-i-ammara (commanding ego). It encourages evil on the path towards love. The distinguishing characteristic of this nafs shows an excessive interest or admiration of oneself. It is unemotional, and inconsiderate; it has an impulsive nature which flares up to anything without contemplating. One who is afflicted by the manifestation of such qualities are often arrogant, cruel, stingy or lustful.
Second, the Nafs-i-Lawwama (accusing ego). It has the ability to observe its own attitude or thoughts. But it still has a bad habits such as engaging itself in the practice of deception. It is proud of oneself especially in the desire to please other people. It loves to immerse in spiteful talk and sully the reputation of others or spread lies. One who falls upon this nafs is an insincere and a hypocrite person. It loves a double-faced policy.
Third, the Nafs-i-Mulhama (inspired ego). It has a moral sense of what is right or what is wrong. It is generous and modest. Sometimes spiritual greediness is its habit especially if it advances in knowledge.
Fourth, the Nafs-i-Mutmaina (peaceful ego). One who reaches this stage is courageous, compassionate and loyal and attached to spiritual ambition.
Fifth, the Nafs-i-Radiyya (contented ego). One who is on this stage is very patient or tolerant. He accepts anything inevitable.
Sixth, the Nafs-i-Mardiyya (pleasing ego). This self is full of knowledge of Allah and sincere. His faith is limitless unbounded faith and aspires for friendship or togetherness. Mystically intoxicated. He lacks seriousness and instability.
Seventh, the Nafs-i-Saffiya (pure ego). This self is full of acceptance of whatever happens. Contented. It has no bad habits. Perfect knowledge of unity.
Nafs (lower self) is the most difficult thing to understand but it can be tamed. Taming and purifying the lower ego must be a work in progress!
How about you, under what stage of nafs are you in?
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