from Ghazali’s ‘Ilya’a ‘Ulum al-Din’
Meaning of nafs: It has two meanings. First, it means the powers of anger and sexual appetite in a human being… and this is the usage mostly found among the people of tasawwuf [sufis], who take “nafs” as the comprehensive word for all the evil attributes of a person. That is why they say: one must certainly do battle with the ego and break it (la budda min mujahadat al-nafs wa kasriha), as is referred to in the hadith: A`da `aduwwuka nafsuka al-lati bayna janibayk [Your worst enemy is your nafs which lies between your flanks. Al-`Iraqi says it is in Bayhaqi on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and its chain of transmission contains Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghazwan, one of the forgers].
The second meaning of nafs is the soul, the human being in reality, his self and his person. However, it is described differently according to its different states. If it assumes calmness under command and has removed from itself the disturbance caused by the onslaught of passion, it is called “the satisfied soul” (al-nafs al-mutma’inna)… In its first meaning the nafs does not envisage its return to God because it has kept itself far from Him: such a nafs is from the party of shaytan. However, when it does not achieve calmness, yet sets itself against the love of passions and objects to it, it is called “the self-accusing soul” (al-nafs al-lawwama), because it rebukes its owner for his neglect in the worship of his master… If it gives up all protest and surrenders itself in total obedience to the call of passions and shaytan, it is named “the soul that enjoins evil” (al-nafs al-ammara bi al-su’)… which could be taken to refer to the ego in its first meaning.
My nafs is hungry and lazy. It likes to eat out for lunch, and flop down in front of the tv when I get home from work. The husband asked me to calculate how much money I spend going out to eat at lunch, and goodness, it does add up! Seriously, $4 for a bowl of soup? I made a whole huge pot of minestrone this weekend for $5 – probably enough for 8 bowls.
So, I’ve decided to bribe my nafs. There is a whole big long list of things I’d like to buy in the way of Islamic books and lecture cds, as well as classes to take at Sunnipath and our new local Islamic University. The problem is that there never seems to be enough money in the budget. There never seems to be enough money to go around, and as such, we get sucked into the pit of debt. Ack, debt :(
Ah, but what about all that money I spend on food? Instead of withdrawing money from the ATM each week and feeding the “me me me, I’m too lazy to pack my own lunch, so buy me pizza and soup and popcorn,” the plan is to withdraw $20 each week, and designate that as my nafs money. I can use it for anything I want. I could feed my lazy hungry nafs with restaurant food for lunch each day. Or, I can save that money and put it towards stuff that will help improve my islam, iman and ihsan.
So nafs, I’m declaring jihad on you. No more wasting money on soup that I could easily make for much cheaper at home. No more greasy pizza that is clogging my arteries and increasing my blood pressure.
You’ve been warned nafs. Time to get my jihad on.