Nafs/Soul/Self And Mawt/Death


1. No nafs/soul dies except by Allah’s permission on the basis of a timed necessity (3: 145)

C. Death of a person is a Cosmic affair because each person is so much related to and  so much relies on the existence the others that Allah in His mercy takes upon Himself to fix the lifetime of each.  This reliance is double-sided; the death of a person may mean a loss to another and an opportunity to still another. And that is not all- a loss felt by a person on the death of another may be also an opportunity for the same surviving person whether he realises it or not; having the deceased person no more around the bereaved person my discover his own ability and employ it to look after himself without support from the deceased and in fact may be more successful in life as a result. Which means Allah has all the wise reasons to take away souls as well as incarnate (send to this world) other souls, each event timed superbly for all concerned.

Even evil seeming things in this matter may not be evil or at least without some saving grace. For example and by way of ironic contrast he may give long life to a tyrant whose mission, unknown to himself is punish others for their own good as Allah sees it while a good man may die earlier than his beneficiaries would like in which case the Divine Wisdom could be to make the beneficiaries miss him and have so much enhanced appreciation for him after losing him that they would go the direction he showed them with even more enthusiasm than they used to go when he was around.  That is why both murder and suicide are so great sins; they attempt to judge Allah’s apparent life-span of a servant as unnecessarily too long and take action to supposedly put things right.  Allah says in another verse “Whoever kills a soul without being for the avenging of another soul or corruption in the land it is as if he killed the whole humanity and whoever saves a soul it is as if he saved the whole humanity” (5: 32).

This means retaliation for murder or selected or mass slaughter in the course of a rebellion against legal authority whereby social order is gravely upset and social relations sent on to the rocks, brother killing brother so-to-speak. As for why killing single personal unjustly is like killing all humanity that is because, as already said, every single soul alive has something to offer to the good of everyone else, however long-windedly or indirectly and only Allah would decide when to remove him. Can we remove a single bolt or screw from a running machine and not have a trouble later in some future date however distant? A person acting unjustly means to be angry with Allah thinking that Allah did not know whom to make live and whom to make die at any given moment and believing Allah to be unjust or unwise is the only real sin under the heaven and the first such sinner was Iblis Satan who had objected to Allah’s choosing Adam above all angels.

2. Each soul is to taste death; We are testing you with evil and good (turns of events) (21: 35)

C. Nobody comes to this world to stay put. The only reason for being sent to this world is testing the soul while it animates a body.  Once the test period is over the soul must taste death as its last experience in body.  Which makes those obsolete strange claims that some rare persons, unseen or very rarely seen by others, remain in this world to the end of the time who knows why.  Allah says “We did not (o Muhammad sws) grant immortality to anybody before you” (21:34) after which He Almighty adds “Muhammad sws is none but a messenger, many messengers passed before him. Then if he is to die or be killed are you going to apostate?” (3: 144). 

Which means all prophets before Muhammad sws passed away, that is to say, died, otherwise they would have to be seen as immortal. We surely realise that death does not mean a total annihilation of anybody let alone a prophet who is so dear a servant to Allah but is still is a departure from this coarse, material world where only a coarse material world can be used for an effective participation in world affairs. The dead, that is to say those whose bodies stopped working for good, are still alive as souls but reside in a different world unconnected to this one for all practical intents and purposes. With Allah’s permission the good among these departed souls may be given some information about what is going on in this gross world of ours after them but that is not the same as continuing to participate in this world. The good souls are very happy where they are but have neither responsibilities nor obligations like ours.  Hence there can be no ‘Khidr’ in a wordly sense or a Jesus for that matter for example to deal with worldly affairs. What exists after them and in  fact all prophets and saints is a spiritual presence without their grosser personalities behind it, which spiritual presence manifests itself in the mentalities and behaviour of a varying and occasional number of people and may also be witnessed on rare and special occasions when one of us is in a very critical situation. In such moments our dreaming mode of mind is activated and a holy person can than be hallucinated through which hallucination Allah’s kind help is really and materially delivered. This is a great spiritual secret and you better not buy the cheaper if more sensational versions. The holy person’s reward for this is not because he rendered the miraculous help but because he had so refined his soul that he became a suitable vehicle for the transmission of Allah’s blessings.     

3.  Your creation and your death, both are like a single soul’s (31: 28) 

C.  We had said in the previous chapter on Amr and Ruh that spiritual matters defy quantification and enumeration.  Allah does not spend anything in killing or reviving anybody.  He can kill or revive billions at the same time but the energy and economy balance remains nil.  Do waves and currents cost anything to an ocean? So, do not take life and death too seriously if you are godly, because they cost nothing to Allah Whose you are a friend.  For a good servant death and life are equally precious in their own if connected ways.

4. No nafs can really fathom what it will be acquiring tomorrow, no soul can really (for sure) know in what land it will die (31: 34)

C. We may desire or guess what we will be doing in future but we can never be sure. That is why Allah uses the term ‘tedri’/fathom.  The same for the place of death. So we must always be alert and on our guard fearing that tomorrow we may not be as pious as today or the land on which we are standing today may not be the safe place we take it to be. When this consciousness of death lurking around to pounce on and take us is with us we become more careful about what we do and say lest some bad act or word becomes our last.

5. I am not absolving my nafs; indeed the nafs is a constant prompter to evil except what  Allah chooses to show pity about (12: 53)

C. These wise and humble words were said by prophet Joseph AS when he and his seductive mistress were caught in a chase by the lady’s princely husband.  The guilty party was the woman and Joseph AS all the same cautioned all concerned that nobody whosoever could be safe from the treachery of his or her ego if not careful.  Only taking refuge in Allah ensures that Allah’s mercy prevents a lapse.  Trust yourself too much and drop your guard and your nose may be rubbed at no time!  Another point which should not be missed is that prophet or saint all men are at grave risk from their egos and must be on their guard at all times.

6. Had We wished We could give every nafs its (correct) Guidance but the Word from Me has already preceded to the effect that “I shall indeed fill the Hell with jinni/demon-kind and ins/mankind all (32: 13)

C. It has never been Allah’s Will to forcibly give correct, saving guidance to any sentient and wilful servants of His who both demons and men are. He just offers it and leaves it to the prospective beneficiary to take it up or not.  That is because only tests most of which the servant must fail can educate the servant as Allah wants him to be educated. This is found in and all over the nature across all the ranges and individuals of living beings.  In the case of man we learn right and wrong by falling or bumping our heads many times as we grow. Some are wiser and take the lessons pressed on them sooner and more seriously while others delay and prevaricate and may even get angry and insist on falling and bumping until they destroy themselves. 

In a very important sense and given the time and space independence of spiritual realities we may regard this world as both Hell and Paradise and interpret this great verse as follows: Nobody can live and entirely escape dangerous and testing situations. Those who learn the lessons intended sooner rather than later escape all the bad consequences of not learning. Those who ignore the lessons offered cannot escape the punishments of their wrongs till the day they die and also beyond. Normally we make some delays in learning our lessons and feel living like in Hell on a lot of things. A good example may be husband-wife relations. The spouse who learns the lessons served by the sour or stormy episodes between him or her and begins to keep his or her cool more may also wisen up the other spouse and thereby reduce the frequency and hurtfulness of future episodes.  No couple can have a plain-sailing relationship at all times but it is one thing for both to feel in constant Hell and quite another to reduce the frequency and intensity of their fights until they may one day achieve the quality of a very well-behaved, mutually helpful and happy marriage. In case they delay in learning lessons and developing more constructive and affectionate attitudes they may still learn something even when they eventually divorce.  Allah never wastes any experience He makes us go through but brings some good out of it to His servants, one way or another. 

7. And with each nafs come a driver and a witness (50: 21)

C. This is when people find themselves resurrected on the Day of Judgment and despatched to give an account of themselves to their Maker. Then each soul is driven by an angel who variously prompts it to move forward or lashes or pulls him by its chains to advance and face Allah’s questions.  Another angel is also in its company. This one bears witness to the charges made against the hapless fellow with such effectiveness that it can offer no excuse or objection to the witness made.  Again, all these descriptions are only metaphors for far more real and momentous affairs which we cannot ordinarily fathom. Those who eventually come to experience them would wish that they were only as bad as the literally understood-  that is to say, the experiences of the Day of Judgment for a grave sinner are far more terrible than any words can describe them, even when they are the words of Allah.

8. Each nafs is a hostage to what it earned (37: 84) wrong verse
C. Once done no deed can be undone.  The deed becomes one’s history and anything to counter its effects is just another deed and cannot counter what was done before entirely.  One may be forgiven for a bad deed but forgetting it can only be kind or at least polite lie.   So what is important is not committing any evil in the first place.  Only Allah ‘forgets’ completely a sin once He forgives it, ‘forgets’ in the sense that He never avenges it afterwards and in fact converts the evil into good in the form of a great reward for the repentance offered. This only is enough to show that nothing and nobody can be like Him or equal Him in any sense.  He Almighty says “Laysa kamithlihi shay’un wa huwa-s-sami’ul baseer” (42: 11), i.e., “Nothing is like Him and He is the Hearer and the Knower”. When the servant ‘forgets’ as humanly as possible all the offences caused to him by others then Allah ‘forgets’ all the wrongs the servant did in His incomparable Divine Way. Amen. Before then all of us are hostages to our evil acts.

9. I swear by the Day of Resurrection and I swear by the self-reproachful nafs-  is the man calculating that We shall not be reassembling his bones?  On the contrary, We are well Able to straighten up (all down to) his finger tips (75: 1- 4)

C.  Allah is assuring any doubters that their hopes for getting away with their crimes once they cheat or suppress their victims and other claimants against them is futile. There shall come a Day when all the dead shall be resurrected, in fact resurrected so fully that down to their finger tips they shall be as fully formed as before.  Of course that is very easy for Allah. What we are particularly interested here is why Allah soon after swearing by that most singular and momentous Day of Resurrection He is also swearing by ‘the’ self-reproaching nafs.  Almost all Sufi brothers read in this a reference to a state of mind in a believer who has begun to regret his so far sinful life record and is seeking a rescue in firm repentance. Such a nafs is very dear to Allah and by the agreement of all great Sufis such a state of constant regret and repentance is the foundation of all spiritual advancement. Contrarily, self-righteousness is the most destructive attitude in anybody because it blocks one’s vision of his mistakes and keeps him on his way to Hell.  To that effect says Allah “Do not exonerate or declare clean yourselves. (53:32) and “Allah cleanses whom He will” (*).  This means that those Muslims who are not bothered by their own possible shortcomings and wrongs and instead concentrate on others and criticise them sanctimoniously are simply letting themselves down. 

10. O thou the contentedly settled nafs! Come back thou to thy Lord, thou pleased (with Him) and (He) pleased with thee;  enter therefore among My (true) servants, enter thou My Garden (89: 27- 30)

C. A soul made for Allah’s service and helped to it eventually attains a state of constant happy contentment (becomes ‘mutmainna’).  At the moment of death this soul is given the good news that because he has been so happy with (radiyatan) its Lord the Lord is now happy (mardiyatan) with it and therefore he may join the ranks of Allah’s best servants who are now in Allah’s Garden.  Again and incidentally some mystics in their habit of reading too much into the Words of Allah claim that there are forms or levels of the nafs which, following after the ‘lawwama’ or self-reproachful’ nafs climbs up to become three more levels, namely ‘mutmainna’, ‘radiya’ and ‘mardiya’.  Then not being content with these four successive levels which at least have some scriptural if dubious foundation they spuriously add two more, namely ‘zakiyya’ (pure) and safiyya (pure, refined).  That is what Greek philosophy dictates:  Every field of search must be studied alike, namely analysis, coinage of concepts and names for them and then a statistics and dynamics for that imaginary world. For its part, the Book of Allah, although not entirely shy of terminology, is not in the least concerned about analysis and formal logic but delves into all esoteric subjects with plenty of ambiguities whereby a mystifying and emotionalising effect is created. For example ‘Yaum al Qiyama’ literally means the Day of Rising and is occasionally described in the Qur’an as the Day when the heavens and earth are thrown into turmoil and eventually all living beings die.  In terms of formal logic this can hardly be called a day of rising or resurrection. It should be called a day of total destruction. And in fact in Surat 101 al Qaria, it is called ‘Qaria’ or disaster. The resurrection should have to wait and only after the renewal and installation of a new heavens and earth could the dead be revived and only that day could be called the Day of Resurrection. Again, the resurrected dead are taken to Allah’s presence for individual judgment. That can be called the Day of Judgment etc. But in the Qur’an all three are used synonymously.  Why? Because all make up a single spiritual reality and that is the fact that all men shall meet their deserts (what they deserve) despite their worldly death and destruction which look to be the end of them.  Since spiritual events follow courses different than the physical which are temporal and spatial, spiritual events have their own ‘logic’ if the term will be forgiven. Furthermore, while most verses describe the condition of all people simply terrible and horrified when no soul can care about anybody else but itself and according to hadiths even the prophets must tremblingly wait for their turn to come to face Allah, in one verse we have the following categoric exception:

“Those in favour of whom goodness from Us predeced - they are distanced from it (Hell).  They do not hear its noise but dwell in what their souls yearn after.  THE GREATEST TERROR DOES NOT DISTURB THEM and (instead) angels meet them: This is the Day you have been promised” (21: 101- 103).  There is not so much formal logic in these many verses BUT AN OVERWHELMING SENSE OF MORAL REALITY AND SPIRITUAL DEPTH!  It is as if Somebody is  majestically desperate to dissuade us from committing evil and living piously and virtuously; as far as the morally sensitive and conscientious are concerned that Somebody is succeeding only too well and too powerfully!   

It is exactly this compelling goodwill and beatific emotionality which separates religion from both philosophy and science and a mysticism more based on formal logic and scientific and philosophical pretensions is far inferior to a mysticism which chooses to remain within the Spirit of the Qur’an which is the Holy Spirit (Ruh al Quds) and the Reliable Spirit (Ruh al Amin) and Spirit of Allah (Ruhee, Ruhana). This does not mean that the Qur’an-based mystic is not or cannot be a superb philosopher or scientists; he may be. But he knows that Spirituality can be pursued best on its own terms and the more his thought and emotion follows the unanalysable holistic Spirit of the Qur’an the more reliable the results and the more magnificent the attainments. To say the very least, his ‘discoveries’ and statements will never clash with the Word of Allah and will turn no stomachs or chill no hearts.  Against them are those carried-over, bombastic mystics who shout out drunken blasphemies or pontificate on matters spiritual with the pretentious logical, analytical and terminology-laden style of philosophers thereby offending orthodox, mainstream ulema while they could endear themselves to the same ulema had they paid attention to not only Allah’s  Word but to Allah’s style of expressing spiritual matters. Such a careful and responsible Sufi would have a deep and sweet piety in need of no conceptual prison frames or cobwebs of abstruse terminology, like the supposed seven grades of nafs and their specific properties.  He would just love and obey Allah with no thought of philosophical justification. Amen.          

11.As for the one who feared the (eventual) standing before his Lord and as a result withdrew his nafs from vanity,  for him indeed the Garden only is the refuge (79: 40-41)

C. A person who in this world never forgets that one day he will have to stand before his Lord and to give an account of himself will do his humble best to curb his ego’s vanity under the promptings of which all sorts of bad and silly behaviour are committed.

12. There is no nafs but on it is a Guardian (86: 4)
C. An angelic guardian keeps watch on every person and may take action for or against him as necessary.  This makes a brilliant comparison with the psychological insight to the effect that deep down in our minds and the mental centres it occupies there is a kind of unconscious alertness about our own ultimate safety which alertness occasionally interferes with our action and either applies some sort of brakes or supplies an escape rout in a danger situation. This must be an angel, our guardian angel who can take action both in our mind, like inspiring fear or caution to us, and take action in our environment like a timely burst tyre preventing us arriving at a wrong place at a wrong time.  Once I owed money to a friend who was my car mechanic. I had forgotten about it. One day while going out in my car the glass of one of my windows opened accidentally – I must have touched a button without realising- but refused to close up.  Being not far from the shop of my friend I decided to pass by it and have it fixed. He duly did it but refused to accept money, saying it was too trifling a job for him to be worth charging a friend.  I then suddenly remembered my debt to him and pressed an adequate amount of cash into his palm explaining him the reason. He was shy of accepting it but I insisted and he coyly accepted it. We were both were amused and laughed. Without the ‘accident’ my debt to him could remain unpaid. I cannot describe my joy for having settled a debt. On a more serious note and for example in a situation of our attempting a sin, some unexpected obstacles may accumulate in front of us.  Alternatively, in a situation of giving charity to a deserving person a sudden windfall may help us to give with more ease of mind and more plentifully. This angel also serves as a witness at our examination by Allah on the Day of Judgment. When I say angel I do not mean a being like in religious paintings. Angels are realer and subtler than that on top of being integral to our souls and the cosmic soul of the universe. They are solidly real without being solid objects.

13.  By the nafs and what formed it and then inspired it its impiety and piety- definitely whoever purifies it is successfully saved and whoever messes it up is frustrated and harmed (91: 7- 8)

C.  It is Allah Who formed the human nafs and then inspired in its mind what is good and what is evil.  To the well-inclined he facilitated the commission of good acts and to the bad-inclined he facilitated the commission of evil acts.  Whoever chose the former option and fighting against his any bad inclinations purified his nafs of them achieves salvation. Whoever messes up his nafs with the filth of sins and crimes he is inclined towards just wastes his chances of salvation and comes to eventual grief and great shame.

14. What good touches thee is from Allah; what evil touches thee is from thy nafs (4: 79)

C. Human nafs, unlike Allah’s, is imperfect and on its own incapable of achieving any good. To begin with, it needs knowledge and equally spiritual training which includes by the top aspect of spirituality, namely noble moral values firmly loved and believed in. Since it is Allah Who is the Ultimate Source of all these any personal or social good anybody  achieves is achieved  thanks to Allah’s help. Contrarily any evil done or caused is because the doer or causer of it is devoid or unmindful of Allah’s moral directives and relies entirely on his savage and whimsical ego in his actions. Furthermore, charitable acts by a servant attracts rewards from Allah even if not from the recipient of his charity while harmful acts attracts retribution from Allah which sometimes becomes recognisable after a long time. Can one drink strong drinks for example and not be harmed sooner or later?  Which means in case we are blessed by some pleasant gift we must thank Allah and not boast of our cleverness or hard work while if we are hit by a hurt we must blame ourselves, at least to a certain degree unless we are as pure as a prophet or an innocent child which is not frequently the case. 

15. Thou (o Lord) knowest what is in my nafs while I do not know what is in Thy Nafs (5:112)

C. This is what Jesus AS saying to his Lord on the Day of Judgment when Allah questions him about whether it was he Jesus who had told people to take him and his mother Mary as two gods besides Allah.  His answer is so explicit and clear-cut that it demolishes quite a few popular delusions among both some ulema and mashayikh on the one hand and the Muslim public on the other.

Firstly, the Creator and the created may be only too closely related but can never merge. A man can never dissolve in Allah (fana fillah) and become one with Him Almighty. In fact he cannot be annihilated in anything but by Allah’s Declared Will lasts forever ending up either in paradise or hell.  So we find our master Jesus AS who was both a great prophet and a sufi master answer Allah and truthfully remark that he is a separate and created self under Allah and Allah retains his exclusive Identity always for Himself.  He refers to his human self and to the Divine Self of Allah and denies of any knowledge about the latter. In other words Allah’s ‘Dhat’/Essence is never knowable or attainable-  it is from this both infinite and too near distance that He showers us with interminable favours and blessings while from our perspective keeping His Majestic and Mysterious distance like an ocean’s unattainable horizon line.

Secondly, the dialogue having been engaged in on the Day of Judgment and making no mention of a second personal role for Jesus between his earthly ministry about six centuries before our beloved prophet Muhammad sws and the Last Day still to come as far as we are concerned, must lay to rest any claims to the contrary except when metaphorically interpreted.  Hence believing that Jesus is alive in a worldly bodily sense even if in the form of a life in upper space and will just come down like an astronaut must be very suspect indeed. What makes it even more unlikely is the fact that Jesus, on the Day of Judgment is denying knowing anything about what happened after Allah took him to Himself by giving making him die. Had the claims to the effect that he would return to this world and sort out the mess the Christians and others caused he would answer Allah accordingly, saying things like “You had sent me down back to the earthly life and I had disciplined all your servants including the Christians and had made a paradise of the earth for all survivors after I had killed Thy enemies. He is saying nothing of the sort but confessing his ignorance of what happened after he was taken to Allah six centuries before Muhammad sws came. His words are also demolishing all the blasphemous Christian claims about him, like being a god.

16. Mention (make ‘zikr’ of) thy Lord in thy nafs/heart with humble prayers and reverent anxiety, but not loudly, morning and evening and do not become one of the negligent ignorants (7: 205)

C. The best definition of zikr must be this.  We also see that another meaning of ‘nafs’ is ‘heart’ or ‘qalb’ in Arabic. The more real a zikr the less loud it is. Full zikr is when the servant feels no need to publicise it but is too busy trying getting himself forgiven, humble and dead worried in his heart. As such he does not dare to shout out too much because shouting may cause hypocrisy to creep in. In other word the more sincere and sensitive one is the less loud is he in his remembrance of Allah. Let dancing and howling and shrill shouting actors and actresses of Sufism beware.

Morning and evening means at all times that we are conscious and the essence of zikr is not repetition of set formulas prescribed by supposed physicians of the heart like medical practitioner’s writing of prescriptions with drug names, the total amounts and the magnitude and frequency of the doses.  These may only be for dull and naïve beginners who already live on a pattern of routines and formulas even in secular matters and are content to remain so.  Such non-movers continue to sin and offend. Still their profit is not small. By performing dosed and formulated zikrs they may avoid the grosser sins like drinking and womaninsing (hopefully) and also may be able to keep some of the devotional commandments like salat, at least in form if not in spirit. The real state of real zikr is the irreversible animation of the heart whereby remembering and keeping in mind Allah at all times and fearing, loving and begging Him at one and the same time becomes a second nature for the servant. Only thus sins can be checked and charity can be promoted and maintained.  In this case what the servant says  about Allah or prays from Him is inspired by Allah which ensures acceptance. Karamats (saintly miracles) seen from exceptionally pious people are no more than the happy coincidences of the needs or pious wishes of such people with the Will of Allah under the same circumstances. May also us be made so. Amen.

17. Read (thy record of acts back in the earthly world)! Thy nafs is enough as an auditor over thee (17: 14)

C. This is said to the servant on the Day of Judgment when his personal record of deeds is handed to him.  In psychological terms it means that we commit our many wrongs while deep down knowing that they are wrongs and we should not commit them. Which means we need always to be alert to the subtle or not too subtle objections of our conscience to our intended acts and seek to follow the advice of our conscience. When the Last Judgment knocks we more than know how bad we had been back on earth.

18. And from among people is one who sacrifices his nafs/selfish interests to buy Allah’s Pleasure (2: 207)

C. Allah’s pleasure arrives when the selfish desires are sacrificed to win it. So long one is self-centred he is with his master Satan and not with Allah. The twine never meet.

19. Allah cautions you to fear His Nafs (Himself) (3: 30)

C. Do not be complacent about Allah’s kindness. He is equally the God of Wrath and Vengeance because He also has other servants to look after and you are not entitled to wrong others and still expect Allah to dote on you.

20. Say: Allah wrote/imposed loving mercy on Himself/Nafsahu (6: 12)

C. Allah is neither under any obligation to create anything nor once He creates needs He to treat the created kindly.  It is to drive this point home that we see so many unpleasant events in this world, some happening to us and then wonder if God is really merciful or whether He exists at all.  But the fact is that there is more good in this world than bad and more people are happy than unhappy, if in a basic sense, at any one time and place. Because Allah gave freewill to man and imposed on him moral obligations some punishing experiences must be there to prevent man to get complacent about Allah’s kindness. But even this is part of Allah’s loving mercy as all parents know in respect of their children’s moral education.  Unjust or inexplicable-looking sufferings of some people must be seen in the same light but with an added dimension-  when Allah gives such a suffering to a servant clandestinely wrapped in the package are great blessings which will come out later and will more than justify the suffering. Yet we take refuge in Allah from being tried thus. Overall, all balances of happiness and suffering must take into account the existence of two worlds, namely this temporary and that eternal world only where full justice is imposed 

21. Whoever cuts back (on charity he can do) he cuts back from himself/nafsihi.  Allah is free from all wants while you are the destitute (47: 38)

C. Man is not for this world but this world is for man.  He must use this world to build up his superior and eternal life in another world to come.  The seeds of that other world are already in man and these seeds even begin to germinate in him giving him a foretaste of what things  will be like in the next world.  As man learns morality and develops a conscience his moral wrongs begin to give him shame and pain while his morally good acts give him joy and a sense of deserved worth.  The shame and pain is a foretaste of Hell while the joy and sense of worth is a foretaste of Paradise.  Said the Messenger of Allah sws “If your sins are making you sad and your good acts are making you happy you are a true believer”. 

Charity covers all legitimate acts done for the benefit of others legitimately deserving it. Even a kind smile in the right situation is a charity, as the Prophet sws observed. More usually however what we understand from charity is a financial contribution to somebody in need of it.  All who can reasonably afford to financially help another person or persons in need should regard his wealth and the need of the needy the best combination of circumstances Allah graced him with. Thanking Allah for the opportunity he should happily part with some of his wealth and make happy those who need that kind of help. A believer with some means feels like a suckling mother who lost her own baby and is in need of relieving the pressure in her milk glands by suckling others’ babies.  As a result the believer may actively look for those in financial need and happily offer it to them.  One who withholds charity despite having the capacity is withholding it from his more real and eternal next life. Please go out and give charity to whomever you can and see the difference it will make both to your mental prosperity and to your good fortune with the rest of your wealth and your health.

22. Whoever restrains the greed of his nafs, they are the ones successfully saved (59: 9)

C. This means that the summary and essence of piety is curbing the ego’s greed. The ego is greedy for all pleasurable things irrespective of how others might be affected by the satisfaction of that ego’s greed.  This non-care for others is at the root of all crimes and sins which in turn define the man-made evil among people.  It is common observation that there are criminals who, when taken to a court of law and accused of crime show no sighn of remorse whatsoever but may insult and threaten all concerned- his victims, the prosecutor and the judge! Some evils hitting people come from the non-human part of their environment, like a flood or earthquake or draught and these we call natural disasters. But a lot come from fellow human beings. In fact a significant part of social interactions involve the a mutual exchange of evils; one grabs what should go to another, that another hits back by a hearty insult, then the grabber, never ashamed, swears back and then follows a fight etc. The opposition MP gets up and criticises the government without forgetting to add a dose of insult, innuendo and ridicule and the government’s spokesman returns the favour etc. Here also greed for and jealousy about having political power is at the root of the bitter exchanges.  Yes, injustices do exist and political criticism is necessary but the remedies sought are better obtained when the dialogues and exchanges are detoxified and are served hygienically so-to-speak.  The detoxification is about restraining our greeds, not talking from a base of jealousy but of goodwill. Those who can restrain their greed and seek their legitimate share of good things in life are saved from the commission of crimes they could otherwise commit and also are saved, at least to a large extent from being at the receiving end of many crimes.  With their hearts thus purified they live with an easy conscience and die with dignity and are born into another world of most deserved, dignified and happy existence. Amen.

23. Whoever exceeds the limits put by Allah he has abused himself (65: 1)

C.  Sure. Nobody can harm Allah by committing a wrong. He can only harm others but he harms himself more. Abuse means wrong use of something or somebody. Self-abuse must be the most foolish of all abuses. Allah created you with many senses and powers and commaned you to put yourself to good use and not abuse your senses and powers.  Suppose a man defrauds another and siphons off the other’s money. Who suffers a bigger harm, the swindler or the swindled?  The one swindled hurts but is not tormented by sense of guilt and shame and enjoys the sympathy of the decent majority of people who know about his case. The police is sorry for him, his family and friends rush to comfort him… all of which make him feel loved and valued.  The criminal for his part is universally hated and must hide all the time lest he gets caught. He is a very stupid man who lost his peace of mind and social standing in exchange of, for example, more drinks at a pub or new clothes which always feel ill-fitting. He cannot wear them with pride but with a strange sense of unreality and a lingering disgust with himself. In brief, he did more wrong to himself than he caused to his victim.  A man who buys an MOT (Road-worthiness certificate) from a bent mechanic for his car harms himself multiply. Not only he may hurt others but crash and kill himself.  Many horrible traffic or other technical accidents in poor and backward countries are caused by neglecting maintenance of vehicles or other equipment and machinery in order to save money and sometimes false safety certificates are bought from crooked technicians who could not care less for public safety but want to line their pockets. Sexual sins are similarly abuses of people, both the doers and the done-to. We must always guard ourselves lest we abuse ourselves by committing sinful acts.

24. On the contrary, man is ever-watching over his nafs (deep down aware of what he is up to) whatever excuses he may come up with (for his actions) (75: 14)

C. Each and every sane person has an inner monitor, a higher version of himself, which watches his every thought and acts as if it is an outside, independent observer.  This monitor calmly takes note of every thought and act and even ridicules the man’s excuses when he comes up with for silly excuses and explanations of his actions.  This inner monitor is man’s Higher Self as most mystics rightly term it. It consits of man’s instinctive sociability as enhanced and refined by the moral education he constantly receives from the rest of the society. The education is hardly formal; it is not always a parent or teacher lecturing him on morality. It is more of the kind of casual interactions in the course of which criticism is given or received either verbally or by body language. A frown from the dear wife or a scornful yet justified remark against our conduct from a man in the street may equally educate us. With each such input our inner monitor is enhanced and refined and can pass more and more effective judgment on us. This monitor is called our conscience and when sound and rightly-guided it is the mouthpiece of God in us.  The Messenger of Allah sws said in effect that sin was what caused unease in our hearts and we should not do a thing which caused this to us even when jurists rule in its favour. He said “Take the fatwa from your heart”.

25. Say (o Prophet sws) “I can cause neither harm nor benefit to my nafs except what Allah wills (7: 188)

C. Everybody is like that. All that happens happens not because we willed but because Allah willed them to happen.  How is that?  Let me give a recent personal example. I was shopping at a shop noted for its good prices but the last item I was about to buy looked to me too dearly priced which practice was out of character with this shop. I decided to move to another shop where I hoped to save the unnecessary expense.  What happened next  explained to me why the price was uncharacteristically (and by hindsight providentially and by most probably mistake. I went to the other shop, a supermarket. There a shopping  trolley could only be taken by inserting a £1 coin into a slot on the handle bar in order to release the trolley from the next one chained to it. Again uncharacteristically I found that the coin got stuck in the slot- I could not release the trolley from the next one, nor could I get the coin out.  Then I noticed a member of personnel and asked his help.  Busy with arranging something he said he would be with me in a minute. But another young man arrived and said that he could get the coin out for me. And he got it out with ease, doing almost nothing but picking it up as if it was on a table. He then asked me in Cypriot Greek dialect, as if he never doubted that I had come from the Greek-speaking part of Cyprus, whether he could keep the coin to buy a snack and that he was very hungry. After a little confusion I said “Yes, welcome” and he smiled and slipped away.  I thanked Allah “Lord, how kind You have been to me by stopping me from buying another item in the previous shop by making it uncharacteristically expensive and sending me to this other shop for a better bargain, momentarily seizing my coin and then sending another servant who needed the coin to relieve his hunger. You tested me by making him a Greek Cypriot and giving me a Sign that You had sent him to me, the Sign being that he knew so well that I spoke Greek that he spoke to me in Greek and what is more he was so unsurprised by my happy compliance with his demand which means all must have been arranged by You o Lord”. It was as if we were two actors playing a role in a film under a film director. And what do you want, is it not ALLAH Who is acting in all creatures to implement His Will?   What in this instance happened to me was so special that I felt very grateful. Lastly both on his approach to me and his departure the young man was so calm, so sure of himself and so sane, well-spoken and polite that it was difficult to reconcile the very mature image he cast with the image of a petty rogue after defrauding others.  He was very handsome and well-dressed.  In Allah knows best.

26. Say: “It is not for me to modify it (the Qur’an) by the whim of my nafs (10: 15)


C. The idolaters were pressing the Prophet sws hard to make him budge from his position as dictated by Allah in the Qur’an.  What this verse clarifies is that the contents of the Qur’an had nothing to do with the Prophet’s own will but were imposed on him by the Creator. Tradition has it that only once in his prophetic career the Satan could momentarily intervene to insert a small praise for  Lat, Uzza and Manat, (See Surat al Najm) three pagan idols, which insertion was quickly ejected and the Divine Word re-established.  If true, such accidents as exceptions only prove the rules.  Lastly, the verse also signifies that the nafs is very dangerous even for a prophet as the next verse below also suggests

27. I do not absolve my nafs; no doubt the nafs demands impieties except in what (cases) my Lord shows pity (12: 53)

C. This is the comment made by Joseph AS when he was caught escaping his lady owner’s attempt at seducing him.  When he was exonerated he humbly observed that it was only by Allah’s mercy that even a saint (and future prophet) like him could resist the promptings of his nafs-  which shows that all people including saints and prophets have to endure the barrage of fire their ego’s keep them under to push them to sinning.

28. ‘Nufoos’ (plural of ‘nafs’) are only too ready for greed (4: 128)

C. Perhaps the best summary of the traits of nafs.  If not educated well it is greedy, greedy, greedy, in fact insatiable.  For example, once greed for wealth captures one then no amount of wealth can satisfy one’s greed for it but one must seek and grab more. It is a madness!

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