The Commanding Self – Spiritual stages of a Self/Soul in the Qur’an(Stage 1)

Behold! The Commanding Self encourages evil, except when my Lord bestows mercy.

-Joseph (Qur’an 12:53)

The Commanding Self or Soul (Nafs Al Ammara) is the lowest level of the soul and the worst. In it is found extreme desire and lust for immortality and sovereignty. Thus it is attached to the worst of characteristics from which we have been warned by God and His Prophets.

For example, arrogance and pride, hardness of the heart, oppression of creatures, lying, cheating, dishonesty, gossip, jealousy, undeserved self-praise, bitterness, attachment to what belongs to others even if it possesses what is better, lack of contentment, constant complaining, lack of gratitude, blindness to its blessings, wishing for increase without effort, extreme selfishness, greed and covetousness that knows no limit, love of control, and love of base desires, hatred for those who criticise it even if it is for its own good and love for those who praise it even if it is in hypocrisy, rejection of advice and counsel, and only talking about itself.

This Commanding Self is generally divided into two levels:

The Animal Self (Nafs Al Hayawaniyyah); this is the self that runs after sensual pleasures and material possessions without regard for right or wrong, justice or inequity, lawful or unlawful. It is drowned in the pleasures of possessions, sex, and adornments.

It is characterised by lewdness, evil, and lack of humanity. It abhors faiths and loves itself selfishly. It knows neither fullness, nor humility, nor thankfulness, nor honour, nor manners.

The Satanic Self (Nafs Al Iblissiyyah); is even lower than the Animal Self because its love for itself has taken it to the stage where it competes with God in His Divinity and Lordship. “I am your lord supreme…” as Pharaoh proclaimed, and “I am better than him…” as Iblis (Satan) contended.

The Commanding Soul or self is the one with the ill heart. If the heart is not healed, the nafs continues in its ways until the heart is blinded and then it is finally sealed.

The root of this level of the soul is that it’s convinced that it is perfect and that others are flawed and that everyone will die but it will remain immortal. It got its name because of its constant demands and its numerous calls to satisfy its desires.

So it demands a thing and before it attains it, it demands another thing and so on without end. The human in this state is the friend and beloved of Satan and the enemy of the Merciful. “Except those upon whom God shows mercy.”

(The Attributes and Names of the Ranks and Stations of the Nafs in its Striving and Elevation – A Translation of a Classic Text by Mahmoud Mostafa)

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