[Chapter 23] A Thing Called Nafs

Dec 21, 2010

Chapter 23
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

A Thing Called Nafs

People are often prisoners of their own selves – their Nafs. That means they are often hoist on their own petard.

If you insist, you can call it the Nafs Ammaarah – the lowest, and worst level Nafs. At this stage, the Nafs is closely aligned with Shaitan. Together, they – Nafs and Shaitan – make a most powerful and dangerous team. And they have one common target – one single target: you. Their purpose is to destroy you – however they can – and to turn you away from Allah and to set you on course to damnation and Jahannam. And they have a plethora of sophisticated tools and techniques available to them – some of them so subtle that their target often does not even know they are being used against him till the damage is done, till it is too late.

In many ways, Nafs could be really who we are. It is what is inside of us. In this sense we all have Nafs. And then Nafs takes on all kinds of forms and appearances based on what people do with themselves. But we will not discuss those details here.

What is important for us to know here is the fact that we often get so caught up in our Nafs that we allow it to warp our judgment; blur our vision; and generally become an impediment in our efforts to get close to Allah – and to Allah’s people, to other people that is.

People who have a problem with Nafs tend to generally put themselves first – in everything they do. For such people, I, Me and Mine become the pivot around which their universe revolves. They view everything through those prisms.

Is it any wonder then that Nafs has played havoc with the lives of people in every age and place? Families, groups, organizations, businesses, institutions, nations, countries and societies – they all have paid a dear price due to the Nafs of some key factors in their midst or elsewhere.

One way of looking at Nafs is to call it ego – often a supercharged and pampered ego. So Nafs problem is really an ego problem. It is the problem of a human personality that has failed to evolve beyond the level of Nafs Ammaarah.

If our perspective were right, we would know that Nafs and Islam do not really mix. An unchecked Nafs keeps proclaiming its greatness all the time. “I am the greatest!” proclaims the Nafs at every opportunity. Islam, on the other hand, constantly reminds us that Allah is greater – Allahu Akbar. I didn’t say greatest. Instead, I said greater. That is an important distinction.

Wonder why? I wish I had the time to explain. My book, Allahu Akbar, does.


Even as you pack to come to the seminar, your Nafs is going to be the first to jump in your bag – all ready and eager to go.

At every turn, Nafs bids human beings to make it priority number one. Muslims, on the other hand, know that they must put Allah first.

This means they are natural adversaries, right? Nafs and the Muslim? Yes, that is how it should be, at least in theory, but that is not how it works in real life.

Therefore, if we really want to make the most of a program like the present one – and expect to really work for Allah consciously and voluntarily even as we work for him automatically in all the involuntary aspects of our existence – we need to learn to rein in our Nafs.

That is priority number one, when we work for Allah – reigning in our Nafs. And it is not the easiest thing in the world to do.

We need to train our Nafs to curl up and lie down at our feet like a docile dog – like the dog of the people of the cave, Ashab Kahf. We cannot let our Nafs run our life like some owners let their dogs run their lives.

Hence the Du’a we have all been taught:

Na’udu Billahi Min Shuroori Anfusina.


We seek Allah’s protection from the
problems caused by our Nafs.

So, let us try and check the Nafs at the door when we come to the conference – Inshallah. And let us not take it back with us when we leave the seminar.

Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional 
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at] 
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.

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