25 April, 2018 | 9 Sha’ban, 1439 H

"A man who sits with his family is more beloved to Allah (swt) than spending the night in worship (itikaf) in my masjid"

- The Prophet Muhammad (s)

Learning
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Core Curriculum

Section 1 - God, Religion and Islam: An Introduction
  • Topic 1.1 - The Problem of Evil, Suffering and Pain

  • Topic 1.2 - God, Allah and Religion

  • Topic 1.3 - Introduction to Islam

  • Topic 1.4 - What is “Religion” and What’s the Point of it Anyways?

  • Topic 1.5 - A Brief Introduction to the Prophet Muhammad (s), the Prophet of Islam

Section 2 - Foundations of Islam - Theology
  • Topic 2.1 - Entering Islam: The Shahada

  • Topic 2.2 - The Usūl al-Dīn: The Fundamental Beliefs of Islam

  • Topic 2.3 - Tawhīd: The Unity and Oneness of God in Islam

  • Topic 2.4 - Adala: Divine Justice in Islam

  • Topic 2.5 - Nubuwwa: The Purpose of Prophethood in Islam

  • Topic 2.6 - Imāmah or divinely guided leadership in Islam after the Prophet Muhammad.

  • Topic 2.7 - Maʿād: The Day of Judgment in Islam

  • Topic 2.8 - The Sharīʿa: Purpose and Practice

  • Topic 2.9 - The Islamic Concept of the Nafs: Battling the Human Ego

  • Topic 2.10 - Satan, Jinns and Angels: Their Influence in the World

  • Topic 2.11 - The Problem of Evil, Suffering and Pain

Section 3 - Foundations of Islam - Obligatory Acts
  • Topic 3.1 - Accepting Islam: Putting Faith into Action

  • Topic 3.2 - Jihād in Islamic Law and Spirituality

  • Topic 3.3 - Salāt: Obligatory Ritual Prayers in Islam

  • Topic 3.4 - Ritual Purity in Islamic Law: Understanding Tahāra and Najāsa

  • Topic 3.5 - The Five Categories of Islamic Law

  • Topic 3.6 - Tawalla and Tabarra, its Basics and Purpose

  • Topic 3.7 - The Purpose of Zakat and Khums in Islamic Law

  • Topic 3.8 - The Hajj Pilgrimage

  • Topic 3.9 - The Furūʿ al-Dīn: The Fundamental Practices of Islam

  • Topic 3.10 - Fasting in Islam, its Purpose, Dos and Don’ts

  • Topic 3.11 - Other Obligatory and Forbidden Acts in Islam

  • Topic 3.12 - Niyya: Religious Intention as the Foundation of Islamic Practice

  • Topic 3.13 - Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil in Islam

Section 4 - Prophethood in Islam
  • Topic 4.1 - A Brief Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s): The Prophet’s Childhood (PART I of III)

  • Topic 4.2 - Bio: The Prophet Muhammad as a Prophet of God (PART II of III)

  • Topic 4.3 - A Brief Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s): The Prophet’s Character (PART III of III)

  • Topic 4.4 - The Prophet Muhammad (s) as Messenger and Teacher

  • Topic 4.5 - The Prophet and his Relationships

  • Topic 4.6 - The Prophet’s Sunnah and Hadith

  • Topic 4.7 - Ghadīr and Arafah: The Two Last Sermons of the Prophet

  • Topic 4.8 - Jesus and Mary in Islam

Section 5 - The Qur'an and Hadith
  • Topic 5.1 - Islam and Other Religions

  • Topic 5.2 - What is the Qur’an? A Short Introduction to Islam’s Holy Book

  • Topic 5.3 - The Structure of the Holy Qur’an

  • Topic 5.4 - The Quran and Islamic law

  • Topic 5.5 - The Qur’an, Allah and Humankind

  • Topic 5.6 - Hadith and Sunnah, difference and variations

  • Topic 5.7 - The Reliability of Hadiths

  • Topic 5.8 - A Reflection on Verses of the Holy Qur’an

  • Topic 5.9 - Hadith al-Thaqalayn

  • Topic 5.10 - Imam Ali (as) and Nahj al-Balagha.

  • Topic 5.11 - Taqlid and Tawḍih Al Masail Genre of Literature

Section 6 - Measuring Good and Bad in Islam
  • Topic 6.1 - The Effects of Our Actions in this World

  • Topic 6.2 - The Gray Areas of Islamic Law and Morality

  • Topic 6.3 - Heaven and Hell in Islam

  • Topic 6.4 - Life and Death in Islam

  • Topic 6.5 - Guidance According to Islam

  • Topic 6.6 - Fate and the Consequences of our Choices in Islam

  • Topic 6.7 - The Effect of Culture and Environment in Shaping our Religious Choices

  • Topic 6.8 - Major Sins in Islam

  • Topic 6.9 - Why Allah Allows People to Sin

  • Topic 6.10 - Repentance and Forgiveness of Sins in Islam

  • Topic 6.11 - The Three Kinds of Rights in Islam

  • Topic 6.12 - Sinning Against Others and their Delayed Punishment

  • Topic 6.13 - Kufr in Islam

  • Topic 6.14 - Trivializing the Harām

  • Topic 6.15 - Benefits of Islamic Law in this World

  • Topic 6.16 - Good and Bad Deeds: The Spiritual Consequences of our Choices

Section 7 - The Legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as)
  • Topic 7.1 - Islam and Knowledge: the Importance of Islamic Education

  • Topic 7.2 - The Ahl al-Kisa

  • Topic 7.3 - Imamah in the Qur’an

  • Topic 7.4 - Fatima al-Zahrah (as)

  • Topic 7.5 - A Brief Look at the Lives of the Imams (Imam al-Hasan until Imam Muhammad al-Baqir)

  • Topic 7.6 - A Brief Look at the Lives of the Imams (Imam Jafar al-Sadiq until Imam Hasan al-Askari)

  • Topic 7.7 - A Brief Look at the Life and Importance of Imam al-Mahdi (aj)

  • Topic 7.8 - Salawat and Atonement in Islam

  • Topic 7.9 - The Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet According to the Qur’an

  • Topic 7.10 - Clerical Hierarchies in Muslim Communities

  • Topic 7.11 - Mosques in Islam

  • Topic 7.12 - The Philosophy of Karbala and Majalis

  • Topic 7.13 - A Brief Biography of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as)

  • Topic 7.14 - The Battle of Karbala: A Brief History

Section 8 - Islamic Relationships, Sects and Conflicts
  • Topic 8.1 - Misconceptions about Shi’ism

  • Topic 8.2 - Major Sects of Islam

  • Topic 8.3 - Islam and Religious Conflicts

  • Topic 8.4 - Islam and Rights

  • Topic 8.5 - Sunnism and Shi’ism, beginnings and historical developments.

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Special Topics

Section 9 - Independent Topics
  • Topic 9.1 - Muslim Converts – Welcome to Islam!

  • Topic 9.2 - Basic Dos and Don’ts of Being a Muslim

  • Topic 9.3 - Halal Food and Zabiha

  • Topic 9.4 - Family, Parents and Marriage in Islam

  • Topic 9.5 - Marriage in Islam

  • Topic 9.6 - Islam and Sex

  • Topic 9.7 - Modesty in Islam

  • Topic 9.8 - Women’s Menstruation in Islam

  • Topic 9.9 - Music, Alcohol, Drugs and Pork in Islam

  • Topic 9.10 - Islam and Science

  • Topic 9.11 - A Reading List of Islamic Knowledge

  • Topic 9.13 - Ritual Prayers and Supplications in Islam

  • Topic 9.14 - Death & Burial Rituals in Islam

  • Topic 9.15 - The Battle of Armageddon: An Islamic View

  • Topic 9.16 - The Muslim Calendar

  • Topic 9.17 - Muslims and non-Muslims in the Shariah

  • Topic 9.18 - A Timeline of Major Events in Islamic History

  • Topic 9.19 - Introducing the Qur’an: Why it is the way it is

  • Topic 9.20 - The School of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq

  • Topic 9.21 - Major Fields in Islamic Studies

  • Topic 9.22 - The Caliphate in Sunni and Shia Islam

  • Topic 9.24 - Islam, Racism and Anti-Semitism

Section 10 - Islam, Religion, and Modern Controversies
  • Topic 10.1 - Modern Fallacies about God: where Theists and Atheists Agree

  • Topic 10.2 - Tawhīd: The Muslim God according to the Prophet Muhammad and the Ahl al-Bayt (as)

  • Topic 10.3 - God’s Existence: The Argument From Being (Wujūd)

  • Topic 10.4 - God’s Existence: The Kalam Cosmological Argument

  • Topic 10.5 - God’s Existence: The Argument From Design

  • Topic 10.6 - The Problem of Evil, Suffering and Pain

  • Topic 10.7 - Why did God Create Us? The Purpose of our Creation

  • Topic 10.8 - Why Humans Need Religion according to Islam

  • Topic 10.9 - Jahl and Spiritual Ignorance in Islam

  • Topic 10.11 - Do Non-Muslims Go to Hell?

The Islamic Concept of the Nafs: Battling the Human Ego

Abstract

Here we discuss the nature of our “base self” or “base ego” called the nafs. There is a battle raging inside, one for good and the other for evil. Whichever one wins depends on whichever one we feed the most. 

INTRODUCTION 

 

Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters. 

 

Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! In our last lesson, we talked about the Sharīʿa. We learnt that the Sharīʿa is a way of life. More specifically, it is way of reaching closeness to God through a life of servitude and surrender to Him. We do this by following his commands.  

 

We also learnt that humans by nature are always in a state of servitude, either serving their delusions and attachments, or serving God Almighty. The goal of the Sharīʿa is to instil a specific discipline in the human soul whereby it can rechannel itself and surrender to God through the habit of obedience.  

 

Obeying God is an internal struggle. One the one hand, we have the desire to want to do our own thing, but on the other, God is asking us to do what He wants. The platform and the grounds in which this struggle takes place is inside the human soul. Simply put, it is a struggle against the evil inclinations of the ego, or nafs as it is called in Islam. In this lesson, we will go over the types of nafs in Islam. 

 

BODY OF TEXT 

 

For unto him who shall have transgressed the bounds of what is right, and preferred the life of this world [over God and the good of his own soul,] the Hellfire shall be his refuge. But unto him who shall have stood in fear of his Sustainer’s presence, and held back his inner self from base desires, then indeed Paradise shall be his refuge (Chapter 72, verses 37-41). 

 

So far in our current section we have had little trouble in translating Arabic terms to English. Today’s discussion is about the concept of the nafs which is an Islamic term with NO equal meaning in the English language and may mean different things depending on the context. 

 

In this lesson, we will be discussing the part of the nafs that commands to evil which is otherwise known as nafs al-ammarah in Arabic. According to Islam, the inner dimension of person is divided into two camps, the first is the spiritual self - commonly known as the fitrah – and the lower or base self which commands us to evil, commonly known as the nafs. The nafs that commands to evil is the realm that produces delusion and attachment to mental illusions. It is the center of our unruly desires, base thoughts and heedlessness. 

 

These mental illusions include, among other things, the need for power, fame, excessive money, and worst of them all, pride and arrogance which most of the aforementioned desires stem from. Pride and arrogance are especially problematic for they are the grounds through which humans defy Allah.  

 

Allah commands humans to do good and to obey Him for the sake of their own souls, but it is the pride and arrogance which the nafs produces that refuses to surrender to God and instead, surrenders unto its own whims or hawā as the Qur’an calls it. 

 

So the battle against the nafs is a battle against inordinate and spiritually subversive desires. It is a battle against desires that support and facilitate a lifestyle of heedlessness (ghaflah) towards God. 

 

Seeing how the nafs is the prime source of a human’s downfall, it is the prime target of Shaytān who whispers in the human self and tries to compel it to do evil. The way one protects oneself from Shaytān is self-control, that is, control of the nafs. God has given every human ability an inner gage that helps us orient ourselves towards God.  

 

A diseased self is where this inner gauge and will to control the nafs becomes corrupted. As one sins, darkness develops inside. As this darkness develops, it becomes harder to fight one’s nafs. One must not despair however, for not only does God forgive but despite one’s circumstances and mistakes, God has given us a way to win this battle.  

 

How does one go about in winning this battle? Recall that the battle is between the nafs and the fitrah. Whichever one wins depends on which one we feed the most. If we spend our lives indulging in every whimsical and carnal desire, such as gluttony, drugs, cigarettes, or wanting to show off, we will simply make the evil nafs stronger.  

 

As time goes by, it will be harder and harder to fix ourselves if we get into the habit of submitting to our selfish desires. Yet if we spend more time on spiritual activities, such as prayer, reading the Qur’an, and saying no to the whims of the nafs, then one strengthens the fitrah. As one repeats this over and over again, it becomes easier and easier to say no to the nafs. 

 

If you haven’t noticed already, the key factor that determines which side wins in the battle of the self is habit. Our habits are what determine the inherent strength of our fitrah or our nafs and hence why so much of Islam is about repetition. Acquiring healthy habits is the basis of purifying the self in Islam. 

 

The Qur’an says: 

 

The Day where neither wealth nor children will benefit anyone except for he who comes to Allah with a pure and sound heart. (Chapter 26 of the Qur’an, verses 88-89) 

 

A subject that has often been repeated in our lessons is that of the pure heart or al-qalb al-salīm. The pure heart is what truly determines success in the eternal life to come. The pure heart is a heart that is full of God’s remembrance and is empty of sin, pride and other spiritual pollutants. This comes about through feeding the soul with spiritually “nutritious food.”  

 

Doing it once or twice, or haphazardly is not enough. Long vigils of prayers here and there are not sufficient either. In fact, sometimes it can be spiritually detrimental. What does work is consistency whatever spiritual practice one does. That is the key to success in winning the battle against the nafs. Simply asking God’s forgiveness is not enough. One must couple it with action! 

 

Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh 

Fitrah

Spiritual self

Nafs

Inner self or egoic self that commands to evil 

Al-Qalb al-Salīm

The pure heart that is devoid of sin and full of the remembrance of God. This is the goal of mankind. 

Hawa

Whims

Shaytan

The Devil, Satan 

Pride

In Islam, it is thinking we are better than others and/or know more than God. 

Q1

What is the nafs?

It can refer to the inner self, or the base self and ego that commands to evil.

Q2

What is the fitrah?

The fitrah is our spiritual nature, the realm within us that commands towards the good and Allah. 

Q3

What is the pure heart?

The pure heart is a heart that is empty of sin and completely submerged in the remembrance of God.

Q4

What happens when we refuse the whims of the nafs?

Your fitrah or spiritual nature becomes stronger. You become more disciplined in life. 

Q5

How do we win the battle against the Nafs?

By starving it and feeding the fitrah instead. 

Self-building
nafs
the evil self
ego
inner self
Islam
Qur’an
God
Allah
sins
salvation
mental illusions
whims
dunya
alam
love of the world