‘Nafs’ as conscious mind

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

The word ‘Nafs’ in Al-Quran is used in the meaning of ‘psyche’ or ‘consciousness’ which is accountable for its orders. What choices we make or what decisions we take consciously, are by our ‘Nafs/Psyche’ and we will be accountable for these actions. When we are asleep our Nafs/consciousness is dead. Anything we do, during your sleep or unconscious state, we will not be held accountable for it. The below Ayas 39:42 and 6:50, define the characteristics of Nafs as a conscious state of mind.

39:42  اللَّهُ يَتَوَفَّى الْأَنفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا وَالَّتِي لَمْ تَمُتْ فِي مَنَامِهَا ۖ فَيُمْسِكُ الَّتِي قَضَىٰ عَلَيْهَا الْمَوْتَ وَيُرْسِلُ الْأُخْرَىٰ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

It is Allah who cause to die/complete the nafs/phyche at the time of death; and those whose time of death has not come (He causes these Nafs to die/ be completed) during their sleep. Then those (Nafoos) on whom He has passed the decree of death, He prevents (from returning to life), but the rest He sends until a term appointed; Verily in this are Signs for those who ponder.

6:60  وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَتَوَفَّاكُم بِاللَّيْلِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا جَرَحْتُم بِالنَّهَارِ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُكُمْ فِيهِ لِيُقْضَىٰ أَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

It is He who makes you (your Nafs/psyche) to die by night, and He knows of all that you do by the day. He raises you up again in it; so that a term appointed is fulfilled; In the end unto Him will be your return; then will He inform you of all that you used to do.

Nafs is the psyche/psychology of a person. The nafs is capable of both corruption and obedience to God. The one who puts efforts in purifying the Nafs will be successful in the eyes of the Lord.

91:7-10  وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا  فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا  قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا  وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا

By the Nafs/pshyce, and what shapes it, So He transmitted (to) it its corruption, and its obedience, Truly he succeeds who purifies it (the Nafs), and he fails who corrupts it (nafs)

The Nafs/psyche is prone to give orders of evil and corruption, unless with the help of God. The help of God comes to he, who tries to purify his Nafs (91:9)

12:53  وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي ۚ إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“Nor do I absolve my own nafs (of blame). the Nafs/psyche certainly orders (to do) evil, unless on whom my Lord bestows His Mercy,  but surely my Lord is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

A child Nafs/psyche is not fully matured, therefore its is not considered accountable for its deeds as it is not considered a (matured) Nafs in Quran.

18:74  فَانطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰ إِذَا لَقِيَا غُلَامًا فَقَتَلَهُ قَالَ أَقَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا زَكِيَّةً بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ لَّقَدْ جِئْتَ شَيْئًا نُّكْرًا

Then they proceeded, until, when they met a child, he slew him. Moses said. “Did you slay an innocent Nafs without a Nafs? Truly you came up with a strange thing”

The Nafs/psyche is reprimanding/reproaching, unless one purifies it to become contended by keeping a clean conscience.

75:2  وَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ

But nay! I call to witness the reproaching Nafs

89:27-30  يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ  ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً  فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي  وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي

“O you the satisfied Nafs/psyche! Come to your Lord,- well pleased (yourself), and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter, in My servants! and, enter in My gardens! “

To be overcome by powerful influences of one’s environment of corruption and disbelief  and not taking corrective actions to control one’s Nafs, shall be considered as being unjust to one’s nafs (phyche)

4:97  إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا ۚ فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا

Verily, when angels are completing/taking lives of those who were unjust to their nafs (psyche), they say. “In what (plight) were you?” They reply. “We were weak in the earth.” They say. “Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to have migrated?” For such the abode is in Hell,- What an evil abode! –

To be killed in the way of Allah, means that our Nafs/psyche is killed by us following orders of Allah. For example, our Nafs could be fond of doing things forbidden by Allah, then after getting Spirit of Allahs Ayats, we abstain our self from them and kill our nafs and its internal desires abstaining from evil. After killing our own Nafs and with the help of Spirit of Ayas, we then fight an intellectual fight with the Nafoos of other people.

9:111  إِنَّ اللَّهَ اشْتَرَىٰ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُم بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ ۚ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَيَقْتُلُونَ وَيُقْتَلُونَ ۖ وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ وَالْقُرْآنِ ۚ وَمَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِعَهْدِهِ مِنَ اللَّهِ ۚ فَاسْتَبْشِرُوا بِبَيْعِكُمُ الَّذِي بَايَعْتُم بِهِ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

Surely Allah has purchased from the believers their Nafs and their wealth,  (in return) is gardens for them. They fight in the way of Allah thus they kill (their nafs) and get killed (their nafs). A promise on Him in truth in At-Taurah / The Law and Al-Injeel / The Good news and in Al-Quran / The Reading. And who can fulfill with his promise than Allah, thus rejoice with your deal that you bargained with Him, and that is the supreme achievement.

When one has killed his own Nafs with Haq/Truth, only then he would be able to kill others Nafs/psyche with truth. Believers strive to sell their Nafs to Allah. After this sale, only Allah’s Will should remain in the Nafs.  There is a difference between believers killing their Nafs and rejecters killing their Nafs. Believers are killing their Nafs so that it is purchased by Allah and their self is nullified. Rejecters do the opposite, their Nafoos are not purchased by Allah.  Their Nafoos are their desires. Allah does not purchase their Nafoos and their Nafoos are dead in the eyes of Allah. One indication for successful sale of Nafs, is that once you kill an evil in your Nafs/psyche, the desire of it should not re-occur. If this desire reoccurs, it is an indication that the evil was not killed properly and Allah has not purchased your Nafs and you still have to make more effort *


Lecture by Scholar Mohammad Shaikh on killing of Nafs: