The word ‘ego’ is regularly used. Both here, as in ETTV.

In Islam there is a similar term; Nafs.
Man’s struggle with the Nafs is called Jihad, or the big Jihad.
And of course…. It is a feminine word. :-P… What else could it have been ?

Rumi compared the Nafs with a disobedient camel… Now I do not know if people have experience with these animals, but from what I hear this can be quite a struggle.

One might conclude that Islam is not talking very positively about the Nafs. It is considered to be the cause of all blameworthy actions. Mohammed (saws) believed it to be ones worst enemy.

Now it seems that spiritual teachers in Islam always felt a need for identifying stages. Based up on the Quran and the Hadith.

The first stage being Nafs al Ammara (bi su); “The soul commanding to evil” (Q 12:53)
The second; Nafs al lawwana; “The blaming soul” (Q 75:2)
The third; Nafs mutma inna; “The soul at peace” (Q 89:27)

The three stages go from a stage where the ego is fully in control, to a self that becomes conscious of the ego to the last stage where peace is found.

Interesting (I believe) is that Muslim’s also refer to the Nafs as ones shaytan. (Ones demon or devil) When asked about his shaytan, the Prophet (saws) said; “My shaytan became a Muslim” (Aslama Shaytani)

It is interesting in two ways; Firstly because it gives us a glimpse of the different nature of shaytan compared to the Christian picture were, I believe, the devil seems to be almost as a the opposite of God. I believe this is not the case in Islam where shaytan is portrayed more like a whisper in one’s heart. But it also shows that ones intention should not be to “kill” ones Nafs. It should be trained and put to use in the service of God.

The main means of training the Nafs are supposed to be; “Little food; Little sleep and little talking” Some interpreted this as an ascetic life. Even though the Prophet clearly stated that Islam is a middle road. Fasting should be nothing more than a means to an end. Not a goal in it self.

Maybe people now recognize that Ramadan is far more than simply “not eating”. It is in fact a month of training. Training of the Nafs.

Greetings from Holland.

And if people like these little personal explanations… Please say so…

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4 Responses to Nafs

  1. Johanna says:

    Yes, thank you Dreamfable, I am very interested to discover more of this teaching. I find the idea of the Nafs as going through stages, an interesting alternative to the idea that the ego is merely a self-image with which “we” identify. Also, what you say about Shaytan is wonderful! Reminds me of the old Eastern European idea of God and the Devil being brothers… I look forward to further forays into these ideas.
    Johanna (also from Nederland, many years ago!).

  2. Dreamfable says:

    Hi Johanna,

    Thank you for you reply.

    “Words remain on the shore” someone said long time ago. As for my self… I am even not sure where the shore is. So in no way I am in a position to teach anything in depth.

    Your words make me wonder who is going through the stages. (If there are any, its just a interpretation of several verses in the Quran where the Nafs is mentioned) I posted something on my own little blog dreamfable that might the answer to that question. (

    As for Shaytan… I think one shall never find a Moslim believing Shaytan to be Allah’s brother.. 🙂 I never studied this subject in depth. In the Quran Shaytan is mentioned to be one of God’s angels (Iblis) who refused to obey and therefore was banned. If I recall it well, Shaytan only has the power of deceiving people by whispering in the hearts of men. That’s why (polishing of) the heart is such a important theme in Moslim thought. The heart being both a doorway to God as well as being vulnerable to Shaytan’s deception. It is believed however that Shaytan will never be able to enter a pure heart.

    People often mention Shaytan when something bad has happend to them. I remember walking in Tunis, on my way to the mosk, when a woman walking next to me dropped something blaming Shaytan for it. As I was a freshman then I first believed that she was talking about me, being the shaytan. It was quite worried about this, I can tell you you. 🙂


  3. Idris says:

    “In the Quran Shaytan is mentioned to be one of God’s angels (Iblis) who refused to obey and therefore was banned.”

    Stoppp..!! Shaytan never was an angel nor will he ever be, for Angels do not own free will.
    “18.050 Behold! We said to the angels, “Bow down to Adam”: They bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the Command of his Lord. Will ye then take him and his progeny as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you! Evil would be the exchange for the wrong-doers! ”

    Salam alaikum

  4. Raoef says:

    Wa Alleykum assalem Indris,

    I never replied to your reaction. Was in in Tunis in that period of time and forgot about it later.

    You were absolute right in your comment. Thank you for correcting me.

    Fi amani Allah


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