The three types of Nafs


وَمَا أُبَرِّىءُ نَفْسِي إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلاَّ مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّيَ إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Although innocent, Yusuf Alaihis Salaam said out of humility,) “I do not absolve myself (of all fault). Surely the soul insistently commands (a person to do) evil, except (the souls of those people) on whom Allaah showers mercy (people such as the Ambiyaa). Undoubtedly my Rabb is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Surah Yusuf

This is a verse of the 13th para which is Surah Yusuf. In this verse Hadrat Yusuf Alaihis Salaam says, “ I do not absolve myself (of all fault).” Yusuf Alaihis Salaam had just passed a major test. Zuleikha was a woman of honour, holding a lofty position in society and extremely beautiful. She had closed all the doors and then seduced Yusuf Alaihis Salaam, yet by the grace of Allah Ta’ala he had abstained from evil. This is only possible when a person has spiritually corrected himself, else this is such a tempting occasion where even elephants (i.e. people full of Taqwa) would slip.

After passing such a great trial he says, “I do not regard my Nafs to be pure.” He was not a Nabie at this stage, rather he was blessed with Nabuwwat at a later stage of his life. Allah Ta’ala had placed the Nafs in control of every Nabie. The ambiya n were Ma’soom thus they did not even think of sins.


 إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ

Surely the soul insistently commands (a person to do) evil

Nafs or Shaytaan

Generally the Nafs is such that it doesn’t only command a person to indulge in evil but continuously commands one to indulge in evil. Hadrat Thanvi R.A has explained as to how one will be able to determine whether the Nafs is commanding one to sin or Shaytaan is commanding one to do so. Maulana explains that if the thought of sin occurs once then it is Shaytaan as Shaytaan is generally very occupied in misleading people thus he does not have sufficient time to continuously return to a person. However the Nafs of a person is attached to a person thus the thought of sin continuously repeats itself even though one is trying to repel it each time.

In the verse above, Allah Ta’ala states that the Nafs continous commands one to indulge in “SOO”. In Urdu this is on the scale of the word “BICCHOO” which means a scorpion. The scorpion always spits its poison onto a person. It is mentioned in the Hadith Sharif that Shaytaan inserts his poison into a person that is neglectful of the Zikr of Allah Ta’ala. In the Quraan Sharif Allah Ta’ala states,

وَمَن يَعْشُ عَن ذِكْرِ الرَّحْمَنِ نُقَيِّضْ لَهُ شَيْطَانًا فَهُوَ لَهُ قَرِينٌ

We shall appoint a Shaytaan (to take charge) of every person who turns a blind eye to Rahmaan’s advise, who will be his companion.

The greater enemy

The bigger enemy in comparison to Nafs and Shaytaan is the Nafs. Shaytaan was led astray because of his Nafs. There wasn’t any other Shaytaan that led him astray. On one side we have a strong enemy such as the Nafs yet on the other hand Allah Ta’ala is most merciful.  

Khwaja Azizul Hassan Sahib R.A says in a poem,

نفس و شیطان دونوں نے ملکر ہاہے کیا ہے مجھ کو تباہ

ائے میرے مولی میری مدد کر چاہتا ہوں میں تیری پناہ

Both Nafs and Shaytaan have united and destroyed me

O my Master, assist me as I require Your protection.

Allah Ta’ala is always there to assist His servants. In the Quraan Sharif Allah Ta’ala says that the plot of Shaytaan is weak. On one hand, Nafs and Shaytaan continuously incline one towards evil, yet on the other hand every person has an angel that encourages him to carry out good actions.

The mercy of Allah Ta’ala

إِلاَّ مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّيَ

except (the souls of those people) on whom Allaah showers mercy

Further in the verse Allah Ta’ala says that the evil Nafs cannot harm a person upon whom is the mercy of Allah Ta’ala, therefore a person that is tempted to commit a sin should carry out some action which attracts the mercy of Allah Ta’ala, such as Taubah, Istighfaar, recitation of Kalimah Tayyiba, third Kalimah, Durood Sharif, etc. When a person is distanced from the mercy of Allah Ta’ala then one experiences problems whether it be financial, domestic, health problems, indulging in sin, etc. These problems are a result of Allah’s curse.

The solution to financial problems do not lie in taking loans or going to others for Taweez. A person is merely required to carry out some action that draws the mercy of Allah Ta’ala, which will remove all such problems.

Places of mercy

Secondly a person should hasten towards those places where the mercy of Allah Ta’ala descends such as the Masjid, the Khanqah, in Jamaat, Makkah Sharif, Madinah Sharif, etc. These are those places where the mercy of Allah Ta’ala descend in great abundance.

Times of mercy

 Also, there are certain times daily wherein the mercy of Allah Ta’ala descends, such as the time of Azaan. However, unfortunately majority of us do not respect the Azaan any longer. The wife of Haroun-Ar-Rasheed once requested her slave girl to bring her a glass of water. She was on the verge of drinking the water when the Azaan was called out. She responded to the Azaan first and then drank the water. Allah Ta’ala had forgiven her on showing respect to the Azaan. The social welfare work and other services to Deen didn’t really carry any weight in the Aakhirat.

We had once attended a Madrasah Jalsa where a Hifz completion had taken place. The M.C had announced that it is now the time of Azaan. We will give the brothers a 7 minute grace period to meet with friends and associates that have come from far and wide, and thereafter the Azaan will be called out. When the Azaan is called out, we expect absolute silence from all the brothers. Nowadays, people are busy speaking in the Masjid whilst Azaan is being called out. We do not show any respect whatsoever to the Azaan. Over and above showing respect to the Azaan, we should reply to the Azaan and then finally recite Durood Sharif and the Dua after Azaan. A person that does this is guaranteed death upon Imaan. Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam has promised to intercede on behalf of such a person on the day of Qiyaamah. A person that has attracted the mercy of Allah Ta’ala is protected from Nafs and Shaytaan

انَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Undoubtedly my Rabb is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.”


Allah Ta’ala finally ends the verse by declaring that He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. A person may have spent his entire life in the disobedience of Allah Ta’alayet Allah Ta’ala is prepared to forgive him and shower His mercy upon him.  The word Ghafoor is used to show excessiveness. There isn’t any limit to the forgiveness of Allah Ta’ala. Not only does Allah Ta’ala forgive a person, but thereafter showers His mercy upon a person.

If a person has committed a capital crime in a country such as treason then he is given the life sentence. He then appeals to the president or prime minister and they approve of his appeal. They will perhaps forgive but will not reward him with a block of flats or ten filling stations. However, when Allah Ta’ala forgives then He showers His mercy upon a person as well. A person should not lose hope.  

The soul

A human being is made up of two components namely the body and the soul. If the Rooh (soul) is missing then one is a dead person. Sometimes a child is stillborn as the soul has been removed, therefore arrangements for burial are made. If the soul is removed from the hand of a person, then the person is referred to as a paralysed person. The hand can no longer function nor can the hand feel any pain. This is the consequence of the rooh leaving the hand. If the soul leaves the leg, then the leg is motionless. We term these things as paralysis but it is actually the soul that has left the body. When the Rooh leaves the body then a person is regarded as a dead person.

If a person is unconscious or in a coma but the Rooh is within a person then one cannot be buried. If the unconscious person is in hospital, then such a person is taken care of all the time.

When the Rooh is in the body, the eyes are able to see. When the Rooh is removed, the eyes are still there but unable to see, so it is actually the Rooh that is seeing. The same eyes are removed from the deceased and transferred into a living person, he is able to see with the eyes. The same applies to the ears and the various other organs of the body. 

In the Quraan Sharif, Allah Ta’ala says,

وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الرُّوحِ قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُم مِّن الْعِلْمِ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً

They ask you (o Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) regarding the soul, Say! The soul is from the command of my Rabb and you have not been given knowledge except little

 If one has to visit the department of psychology and philosophy at any library or university then one will find shelves of books defining the soul, yet they haven’t reached a satisfactory answer. Here, Allah Ta’ala explains the soul in two words. The Rooh is the command of your Rabb. When the eyes, ears, heart, kidneys and other organs cannot function on their own, how can the shop function on its own? How can operations be helpful to a person? Whatever is happening is by the command of Allah Ta’ala.

In a hospital ward there are fourteen beds (with seven on each side). When the doctor diagnoses the patients, he increase the medication for one but decreases the medication for another. He changes the prescription for another and yet another patient is discharged. This proves that everything is solely and only in the hands of Allah Ta’ala.

If the Rooh is strong in the body, then the Rooh controls the body and the Rooh should control the body. The Nafs (carnal desires) should be under control else there is a fear of destruction. A person purchases a brand new Ferrari or Bmw and the youngster drove it at maximum speed and caused an accident. He loses his life, the car is a right off and the property of others are damaged. This is similar to the Nafs being in control. If the driver knew how to control then he would drive at high speed yet reach his destination safely.

Similarly, if the Rooh is strong and controls the Nafs, then the Nafs can serve the Rooh greatly. On the one hand, if the Nafs is powerful as one does not perform his Salaah, no recitation of Quraan and Zikrullah, one’s belief in Allah Ta’ala is weak, then we can well imagine how the Rooh will be destroyed.

Arrangements for the Nafs

The shopping malls, stores, restaurants, in the CBD are to serve the Nafs. The parks and entertainments areas in the residential areas are also for the Nafs. The hospitals are for the treatment of the body and Nafs. Is there any such infrastructure or facility for the Rooh? We can now well imagine as to why there is so much of chaos in the world, and we have become accustomed to such living. We haven’t tasted the pure Islamic way of life.

Today, we are drinking seven up and Pepsi in Makkah Sharif. If our Imaan was perfected, we would only drink the pure, blessed water of Zam Zam. We enjoy the crisps and chocolates in Madinah Sharif, but we don’t enjoy the dates of Madinah Sharif. This is all the consequence of the Nafs that is out of control.

Here in Surah Yusuf, we had discussed Nafs-e-Ammarah (i.e. the Nafs that dictates evil all the time). Khwaja Saheb R.A says,

نفس امارہ سے ہمیشہ بد گمان رہنا

Always think evil of the Nafs

Never regard the Nafs to be tame and corrected. A certain king had trained twenty four cats to stand with a lantern on their heads and stand in the pathway to the palace. These cats would serve as lamps. The cats would stand in such an orderly manner that twelve on either side. He then boasted to his minister about his achievement. The minister said, “We will have to put them through the test.” In order to test them, he brought a rat in a bag. The cats had immediately sensed that there is something tempting for us, and when the bag was opened then twelve years of training was lost in a matter of seconds.

The actual test

Normally, we tell our friends that spent Ramadaan in the Khanqah, that your actual test is not here. There isn’t any women in the Khanqah, we listening to Taraweeh Salaah, fasting, taleem, Zikr, etc. the actual test is when we leave the environment of the Khanqah. When our eye falls on the first woman after leaving the Khanqah, that is the test. When we reach home after forty days and don’t get a five star treatment from the wife, then our anger and attitude will be tested.

A vehicle that is serviced at the garage is only tested when it is on the road. The human being is such a machine that it designs and manufactures all other machinery in the world. The motor vehicle that we drive is serviced after a 20 000km interval or after 12 months, but the human body is serviced five times a day by performing Salaah. The service will be fruitful if the Salaah was a Salaah. We are still in business whilst in Salaah, this is not a Salaah. When we are unmindful of Salaah then such a Salaah is destruction for a person. When concentration and devotion is found in Salaah then such a Salaah is a means of success for a believer.

Lack of resources

Nevertheless, there is plenty of facilities for the body  but nothing for the soul. In Makkah Sharif there are various shops directly in front of the Haram which are for the body, yet there isn’t any facility for the treatment of the Nafs. We have a few Darul Ulooms, the example of the Tabligh Jamaat is like a medical force that puts up their tents where an epidemic has broken out. The Khanqah is a real spiritual hospital. The Khanqahs operate only in the month of Ramdaan, so are the patients only going to be treated in Ramdaan?

We require these Khanqahs and spiritual doctors. We have so many doctors, hospitals, clinic, laboratories, which is to service the Nafs yet we do not have anything to service the Rooh. At the time of death, the Nafs will be turned to sand.

In the 13th Para, Allah Ta’ala had discussed Nafs-e-Ammarah. After a journey of approximately half the Quraan (i.e. after 15 Paras), Allah Ta’ala explains that if effort was made on the Nafs then it becomes Lawwama (i.e. a person sins but he is remorseful over his sins). When the Nafs is Ammara-bis-soo then the person doesn’t feel any guilt, and in fact a person justifies himself. Therefore one has to make an effort on the Nafs then only it becomes Lawwama. When the Nafs is Lawwama then one admits that he has weaknesses within him.  He is not in a state of denial. If a drug addict is in a state of denial he wouldn’t go for rehabilitation. When a person admits to his faults then humbleness enters a person and then Islaah of such a person will be made. This is the path of Suluk where a person starts walking towards Allah Ta’ala and progresses. The walker is termed as the Saalik.

Who is a Mureed?

This is a Mureed (one who has made an intention). Did we ever make an intention of Islaah-e-Nafs. We very seldom make such a Dua. We don’t even hear people requesting to make Dua for their Islaah. In the Khanqah in Karachi, we commonly hear people requesting others to make Dua for their Islaah.

If a person reaches the stage of nafs-e-Lawwama then there is only one para remaining after which the Nafs becomes Mutmainna. When one reaches this stage then he is in charge and has full control of his Nafs. When a person has full control of his car then what far off destinations won’t he cover. When a person is in control, then his eyes, anger, desires are all in control. When a person’s anger is not in control then three Talaaqs are issued on a small argument. This causes great havoc, the wife and husband are separated, the children are between the parents.


When the soul reaches the stage where it is termed as “Nafs-e-Mutmainna”, then Allah Ta’ala says,  

يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ

“O contented soul!”

ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً

Return happily to your Rabb while He is pleased with you.”

فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي

“Enter among My (chosen) bondsmen…”

وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي

“…and enter My Jannah.”

If one attains this stage then at the time of death Allah Ta’ala will bless the Nafs with two great degrees. One is that a person will be happy to meet Allah Ta’ala and secondly Allah Ta’ala will be pleased with him. What greater treasure can a person acquire when he is pleased with Allah Ta’ala and Allah Ta’ala is pleased with him?

May Allah Ta’ala grant us Nafs-e- Mutmainna. Ameen!