by Aisha Bewley
It is reported from 'Umar ibn al-Khattab:
"One day while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journeying were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet. Resting his knees against his and the palms of his hands on his thighs, he said, 'O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.' The Messenger of Allah said, "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to perform the prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast in Ramadan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so." He said, 'You have spoken the truth,' and we were amazed at him asking him and saying that he had spoken the truth. He said, 'Then tell me about Iman (belief).' He said, 'It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in the decree both of good and evil.' He said, 'You have spoken the truth.' He said, 'Then tell me about Ihsan.' He said, '`it is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him. Even though you do not see Him, He sees you.'"
An-Nafs al-'Amara or the self bent on evil : the insinuating self which is wholly evil and totally under the control of passions and bent only on self- gratification. It is totally blind to any higher reality.
"The lower self of man commands to evil acts " ( 12:53)
An-Nafs al-Lawwama or the self-reproaching self: the reproachful self which is indecisive in choosing between good and evil and is constantly embroiled in an inner struggle. It is unable to overcome the impulses of the lower self while it nonetheless recognises the higher one.
"No, I swear by the self-reproaching self." (75:2)
An-Nafs al-Mulhama or the inspired self: the self which recognises its faults and strives to correct them.
"By the self and what proportioned it and inspired it with depravity or godliness!" (91:8)
An-Nafs al-Mutma'inna: Finally there is the self at peace which is illuminated and acts according to the good and is therefore liberated
"O self at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing. Enter among My servants. Enter My Garden." (89:27)
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