7 Layers of Nafs – The Ego (Part 1) | Conquer Your Worst Enemy | The Way To Allah
This Article Has Been Translated
From the Realities of Mawlana (Q) as taught by Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi
A’udhu Billahi Minash Shaitanir Rajeem
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
I seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the rejected one
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Introduction: The First Three Levels of the Ego
For tonight, we’ll recite and read from “Ihya Uloom ad-Din” and all tariqahs (spiritual paths) of the seven nafs (ego). And each one can – here, we won’t get to seven; we’ll maybe get to two or three if we’re lucky – of the nafs. Seven names of your nafs, its bad characteristics, and a little bit of the understanding of its danger. Then you’ll see how these teachings have implemented all of that reality. This is the whole system of their teaching and it’s all meant to go after that. InshaAllah, Hajji Yahya has good English and he likes to read, so nice and pronunciation and not too fast, shaykh. If we go over something, then I’ll tell you to stop a second. So, the first level of the nafs.
Level One: Nafs Al-Ammara (The Evil/Commanding Self)
Reader: The Nafs Ammara
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): Nafs Ammara, this is the Evil Self.
Reader: In this first level of the development of man, the rational self and human conscience have been overtaken by carnal desires. At this stage, our self does not recognize the rational or moral limits on the way to achieve what it wants. This first level expresses itself in selfishness, arrogance, hardness of heart, oppression of others, lack of gratitude, ambition, stinginess, envy, anger, cynicism, laziness and stupidity.
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): Hold on. Do we know anyone like that? I don’t want to know anybody’s names but when we go over these, this is for us, our own diagnosis like a medical class. You read what they describe, these awliyaullah (saints) from teachings of Prophet ﷺ. This is the immense science of the self. So, when you see somebody of these characteristics, they’re Nafs Ammara, that they are not accepting anything from the heavens and their understanding is to enjoy this life with whatever ability they can regardless of who’s affected, who’s helped and who’s harmed by it.
Characteristics of Nafs Al-Ammara
The Self is Attached to the Worst of Characteristics
Reader: Thus, the self on this level is attached to the worst of characteristics against which we have been warned by Allah (AJ) and His Prophet ﷺ. For instance: self-admiration, arrogance and pride, hardness of the heart, oppression of creatures, fondness of exposing the faults of others, lying, gossip, back-biting, envy, jealousy, criticism, undeserved self-praise, bitterness, attachment to what belongs to others even if it possesses something better, lack of contentment, constant complaining, lack of gratitude, blindness to blessings, wishing to increase without effort, extreme selfishness, greed and covetousness which knows no bounds.
Today’s News Channels Reflect Nafs Ammara
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): Like TV now. There’s not a television station or channel that they call news and it’s not news, it’s just this. It’s a whole bunch of Nafs Ammara people sitting in front of a camera displaying all these characteristics. What they call talk shows, commentary; there’s no more news on the television and nobody’s reporting news. They’re just one after another doing every type of bad characteristic. Why? So, that when you watch it, you begin to absorb it and you think this becomes a normal for you, that you’ll go out and you’ll do this.
If you are doing these things then you are at the level of Nafs Ammara. So, you don’t have to admit to your shaykh how high you think you are; you just read this and say, ‘Oh that’s where I am.’ Yes, this is your maqam (station).
The Imprisoned Soul is Rescued by a True Guide
Reader: Love of control, love of self and its desires, hatred for those who criticize 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. Originally, the nafs, the false ego, was one of the Creator’s gifts to man. But because we allow the nafs to lean towards material values, to take pleasure only in worldly life, our nafs has become almost animal-like, while its shape remains that of a human being. This nafs is our worst enemy, who is living inside of us, dominating and tyrannizing us and keeping our human soul imprisoned and forgotten in the depths of our subconscious.
On the level of commanding nafs, influences are very heavy. Unless somebody wise and strong holds you by your hand and takes you out, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of these influences. When we follow our rational decision and are rescued from our misery by a strong teacher, then we may rise to the second level – the blaming self: Nafs Al-Lawwama. Thus, the soul is pulled out from the dark dungeon of the ego to the light of conscience, and we will see our arrogance being transformed into humility, vengefulness and hate into love, anger into kindness, lust into chastity if Allah (AJ) so wills. The remembrance that is appropriate for its treatment is La ilaha illAllah (there is no deity but Allah).
No Self-Help: Only Allah (AJ) Sends Guidance
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): So, then understanding these and then we ask ourself, ‘Am I at that?’ So, when people understand they have a lot of bad desires, a lot of bad characteristics, they’re not changing their characteristics. Then this is to understand that this nafs (ego) of mine is at that level and it continuously pulling me towards the badness.
So, we come to tariqah because they’re showing there’s no help for you with yourself. There is no self-help; has to be through Allah (AJ) giving guidance. When Allah (AJ) gives guidance, He dispatches the lion tamers so that to begin to send an energy, a teaching, a reality, ‘Stop what you’re doing.’ And by accompanying these associations and watching the teachings, taking the faiz (downpouring blessings) and the lights of these teachings, making the madad and the taweezes and all of these things are all the implementations to lift Ammara out, and to take the servant out of a deceitful character and to acknowledge Allah (AJ). To feel it, to love it, and to understand the Divinely Presence, inshaAllah.
Level Two: Nafs Al-Lawwama (The Blaming Self)
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): Nafs al-Lawwama. Now that if we rise from that bad characteristic, then 99% of those in tariqahs (spiritual paths) are trying to stay in this category.
Beware the Dangers of Being a Hypocrite
Reader: The Blaming Self. This is the second step in the development of man, where man becomes aware of his actions, is able to differentiate right from wrong, and regrets his wrongdoings. Yet, he is not able to totally stop doing wrong because it is very difficult to break the habits of his previous state.
He tries to follow the obligations of his religion and he prays, fasts, pays alms, and tries to behave properly. But he wants to be known as a reformed person. He publicizes his piety, his good deeds, and expects appreciation from people. This makes his behavior hypocritical. Sometimes he realizes this, regrets it, and tries to change. Hypocrisy is the principal danger in this state.
Shaming Stops Your Hypocrisy
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): This is important understanding – the hypocrisy. But it’s not for you to change the prescription. They want you to be and to acknowledge your hypocrisy, not you change it. You say, ‘I’ll change my image and do every bad thing.’ No, they want you to be a long-bearded, pious-looking person being obnoxious and angry with everybody so that you can feel shame. The shaming will stop you from it.
So, when growing up, we grow our beard real quick. As soon as my mom would see Mawlana (Q) she would say, ‘Why this guy with this beard, he gets so angry?’ Every single time. There was not a time she could spare me from humiliation in front of everybody, 40-50 people, ‘Mawlana, Mawlana I have a question. Why they have beard and hat and they’re so angry?’
Solution wasn’t you take your hat off and shave your beard and say, ‘No I want to be an angry person, just don’t want anyone to know it.’ No, this was a protection and a reminder of my hypocrisy. And at some point you feel like this is horrible, ya Rabbi, and you cry that don’t let me be and to die as a munafiq (hypocrite) where I have this image of my beard, my turban, I accompany my shaykh, I’m doing all these things and doing every type of horrific act.
They want you to feel your hypocrisy and they cry out to Allah (AJ), ‘Remove this hypocrisy from me so that I’m worthy of what I’m trying to follow and the image I’m trying to display.’ But shaitan comes, whispers. Now we’ll go into the whispers, ‘Don’t take it off. Leave hypocrisy.’ What do you mean leave hypocrisy? Then you’re telling me to be a criminal again, be a robber? No, leave hypocrisy means don’t do the bad actions. Not I’m going to continue to do the bad actions but I just don’t want to look like a Muhammadan.
Characteristics of Nafs Al-Lawwama
Satanic Influence on the Self Causes Arrogance and Anger
Reader: There are two other grave dangers as well: arrogance and anger. Every little attempt to be good, compared to the previous state, seems like a major achievement. So, we think we are the best and get angry with others who do not seem to respect us. Arrogance, hypocrisy, anger, intolerance, and lying to ourselves can overtake us.
At the level of Nafsi Lawwama, the devil injects his character of arrogance into our veins and whispers into our ear, ‘You are as good as your teachers now. Not only do you know as much as they do, the way you behave is better. If they were able to apply what they teach in their own lives, they wouldn’t be half what you are. You don’t need their preaching or their advice. Now let people see your wisdom and your deeds so that you will be an example to them.’ Not only the whisperings of the devil, but all worldly life is against the seeker at this stage.
It is a self that is in constant fluctuation between obedience and disobedience. One time, it is heedless and falls and another it is aware and resists. This is the natural station which we start from at birth and from there we descend or ascend. Its sign is the fluctuation between the characteristics of the people of this world and the people of the next world. It is not the same base condition as the Commanding Self but the two desires of immortality and sovereignty are still active in it, although in a much reduced or weakened condition. This is the first stage of salvation for the self and the first step toward its purification and success.
Keep the Presence of the Shaykh to Avoid Shaitan’s Deceit
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi: Alhamdulillah. With that understanding, that’s enough for now. InshaAllah, we’ll go into the rest maybe tomorrow. But the importance of understanding the self and thinking that because of the energies, because of the strength of the shaykhs, that we reach somewhere. And the reminder is no, you’re taking the faiz (downpouring blessings) of shaykhs that reach somewhere but to know yourself is to know your Lord.
مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَهْ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبَّهُ
“Man ‘arafa nafsahu faqad ‘arafa Rabbahu.”
“Who knows himself, knows his Lord.” Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
When you see what category you fit and what the character and the characteristics of the nafs are, then much easier for us to understand and to be humble with the understanding. And its remedy is the presence and strong presence of the shaykh. For if you’re not strong in the presence with the shaykh, you will fall into the deceit of shaitan.
Level Three: Nafs Al-Mulhima (The Inspired Self)
We can read a little bit of Nafs al-Mulhima, The Inspired Self. So, that when we leave the bad actions and we think that if we’re capable of leaving the bad actions and not having arrogance and not having pride. And this arrogance and pride is based on the ocean of hypocrisy. The arrogance and pride of trying to promote and there’s nothing there and you know the badness that you do and then promote yourself as good. Mulhima, inshaAllah.
Struggle to Renounce Worldly Desires
Reader: The Inspired Self. The balanced or inspired self, the third level, is the state in which the good has begun to predominate in this struggle. The tyranny of egoism has been overcome, and a more or less integrated self is attained. The quality awakened here is the renunciation, zuhd, of worldly longings and ambitions, a freedom from the conditions of desire. This state is the aim of most religion and psychology. It is the boundary of conventional ego development.
Although it is only the third level of human development in the Sufi system, it is no minor accomplishment. For some, it requires a great deal of personal, psychological work, and of course, the blessings of Allah (AJ). This is a stage where the seeker is rewarded for his efforts, persistence, and obedience to his highest self and his spiritual teacher. Now he occasionally receives messages from inside of himself: soundless, wordless inspirations which give him direction, encouragement, and the strength to continue in his advancement. Yet there are still grave dangers. The devil is capable of imitating Divine inspirations.
Everyone Must Swim Through the Ocean of Hypocrisy
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): Oh, right here. So, we reach a point in which we try to control the obvious bad, the arrogance, the wildness of the character, the ocean of hypocrisy. Everyone’s going to go through it. If you don’t feel that you’ve been through it then maybe you’re not there yet. There’s no way to leave it. You don’t jump over that ocean. The ocean of hypocrisy has to be felt, that you’re trying to exemplify good character and you’re yelling at home. You’re trying to exemplify good character, you’re yelling at work where you think nobody sees you. You’re doing bizarre things on the internet.
All of these things is an ocean of hypocrisy. Giving advice to people when you yourself know that you’re completely empty, that you’re crazy and going, giving advice for marital life and people’s lives. Most psychiatrists are crazy and they’re giving people advice. So, from an ocean of nifaq and hypocrisy, to give people advice when the advice should’ve been for yourself.
Characteristics of Nafs Al-Mulhima
Advise Only Yourself, Not Others
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): So, then tariqah comes and says, ‘Advise only yourself. Talk only to yourself. Build yourself so that Allah (AJ) doesn’t keep looking at you as a hypocrite.’ That’s why then the path was based on silence. Don’t look at the one who talks and think, ‘I should be talking too.’ Put a rock in your mouth. The one who’s talking is in big trouble with Allah (AJ) for his hypocrisy or her hypocrisy. It’s not about that, you want to stop the hypocrisy. You’re on a path on which to build yourself. Every time you make a mistake, ‘Astagfirullah.’ Every time your family’s angry with you, ‘Forgive me, forgive me.’ Ask them for forgiveness and then begin to pray to Allah (AJ) for forgiveness, ‘Ya Rabbi, take me out of this ocean of the munafiqeen (hypocrites). Don’t let me to die in this state of munafiqeen.’
So, we have to traverse. You know, this is like the siratal mustaqim and say, ‘I’m not going to go over the fire.’ No, everyone walks the line; nobody has left it. So, everything you do and identify yourself but you’re angry and explosive and fiery and all these characteristics that we described, then Allah (AJ) looks to you, ‘You’re a hypocrite.’ So, then you should be crying every night to get out of hypocrisy. Not that you take off your Islam but you take off shaitan. Don’t leave Allah (AJ) to run into the hands of shaitan but to throw out shaitan so that you are with Rahman (The Most Beneficent).
The next level that they begin to step into that ocean is that the overwhelming faiz and energies, their practices and all of their disciplines are now moving in onto them, dressing them, blessing them and the knowledges they acquired are real for them and they have a firmness in their faith. And they firmly fought against the hypocrisy of their character. And they didn’t speak until they were ordered to speak because they knew their hypocrisy. Now what?
Seek Guidance From a Master – A Solid Relationship is Vital for Spiritual Growth
Reader: That is why at this stage the guidance of a master is so necessary; one who will be able to distinguish the true inspirations from the false imaginations. It is during this period that the relation between the seeker and his master has to be the closest. The seeker should not hide anything from his teacher. He should reveal all his hopes, his fears, and his faults; even if he feels resentment or opposition to his teacher, he has to confess these to him. They are like the symptoms of a disease which a sick person must reveal to the doctor in whom he has confidence. Just as he heeds the advice given or the diet prescribed, or diligently takes the medicine given; if he obeys the counsel of his master, he will be able to advance.
Another affliction during this period is a change in understanding and sensibility. It is as if he forgets all that he knew, even his idea of himself. New impressions do not correspond to the old ones. He is apt to see things differently, to misunderstand them, to make mistakes. He feels as if he does not exist. He may imagine that he has reached the final level of fana fillah, to lose oneself in Allah (AJ). But this feeling has nothing to do with that high state. He should realize that it is a state of helplessness, of emptiness, a state of desperate need. This is the last level of danger for the self, for it is still vulnerable to descending to the lower stages of blame and commanding. At this stage, the two desires for immortality and sovereignty are dormant except in passing thoughts.
Survival is Through a Strong Relation With the Shaykh
Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi (Q): This means then its survival is a strong relation with the shaykh. Why? So that you’re not living in your imaginary world. You’re not to listen to your inspirations, you’re not to listen and follow your inspirations. Your inspirations are only for your ‘ibadah (worship). You don’t make any decisions based on what you feel is coming to your heart because in this training they’re teaching, it’s not your heart that you’re dealing with. You’re not in Divinely Presence. You’re in the presence of shaitan (satan) and your nafs, the two sharik (partner), and they’re trying to inspire you to go and do things without asking your living guide.
And now by [email protected], you don’t have to ask about the colour of the paint of your house. These are just major decisions in which you’re going to make a decision, ‘I’m leaving the tariqah. I’m leaving the zikr (Divine remembrance), I’m doing this, I’m going to go now seek out this person to help me with this magic.’ Not supposed to do anything of that nature other than deal with your shaykh.
Shaitan Fools Us Even in Acts of Piety
Because now shaitan is trying to play with you in religious and pious matters. And we said, that’s when you see all the people in a community start to make their own centers. They have one community masjid. They go make another masjid. They think they’ve been inspired by God to do that – to break a community. For what? This is the bad ego and that’s when people are falling prey to that because they don’t have a shaykh. And when they have firmness with their guide, it’s not that they listen to him because nobody listens to the guide. But at least you can take his advice and say his advice seems to be very different than these two guys who are whispering in my ears. Because the one who’s whispering is trying to fool us with deceit and in acts of piety.
Like we said before, ‘Take off your hypocrisy.’ No, no, no, don’t take off your hypocrisy. Wear it proudly and take shaitan off. Never leave Allah’s (AJ) way. You want to die in a state where you’re completely following Allah’s (AJ) way. Not to follow the satanic way and that’s how he fools people in thinking this is a religious inspiration. And there are many examples, most of which you can’t talk about onto the internet of unbelievable things that people are thinking they should do this, they should do that, they should do this. No, no, no, no, these are, you know, these are the wild whisperings of the nafs (ego) to make the student to fall into a hole and into an ocean of difficulty.
Pray to Allah (AJ) – Take Away My Hypocrisy
We pray that Allah (AJ) guide us. This is a path into the cave, in the heart of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and that Allah (AJ) dress us and bless us. ‘Who knows himself will know his Lord.’
مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَهْ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبَّهُ
“Man ‘arafa nafsahu faqad ‘arafa Rabbahu”
“Who knows himself, knows his Lord.” Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
In this way of realities is to know myself, know my nafs, know what’s happening and what tricks are coming upon me, and then I have to leave. 99.9% are in the ocean of hypocrisy. And all night long they should be praying and we should be praying, ‘Ya Rabbi, take away nifaq, take away all this hypocrisy. Don’t let me to die as a munafiq.’
اَللّهُمَّ طَهِّرْ قَلْبِىْ مِنَ النِّفَاقِ
“Allahumma tahir qalbi minan nifaq.”
“O Allah! Purify my heart of hypocrisy.”
Subhana rabbika rabbal ‘izzati ‘amma yasifoon, wa salaamun ‘alal mursaleen, walhamdulillahi rabbil ‘aalameen. Bi Hurmati Muhammad al-Mustafa wa bi Siri Surat al-Fatiha.
Special thanks to our transcribers for their help with transcribing this suhbah.
Original Date of Suhbah: October 16, 2020
- Fighting Desires and Build Internal Energy – Nafs ammara
- Four Enemies of the Self – Dunya, Hawa Nafs, Shaytan
- CONTROL THE FIVE SENSES TO OPEN THE SOUL
- SHIRK AND HIDDEN SHIRK IS MORE DANGEROUS
- 3 Points of Lower Star – 666 Dajjal – Material Desires
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