Explication of the Seven Levels of the Nafs

“THERE IS NO BETTER GIFT FROM A MUSLIM TO BE GIVEN TO A MUSLIM THAN A WORD OF WISDOM” A Hadith

Allah says:

“I was a hidden treasure,I loved to be known, so I created the creation.”

Then out of love Allah said:  “Kun” --Be, and all became.  With the strength of “K”, which stands for “Kemal” -- perfection and “N”, “Nur” -- divine light, a light was created:  The Big Bang . . .   We call this light “Nuru Muhammedi”, the light of the Beloved of Allah, or the causal mind, what the ancient Greeks called “Logos”, the light within which all is seen, the mind with which all is understood.

From this light all and everything was created, one after each other, but as there is no after or before for Allah, all was created at once, the now!

When Allah created the souls He addressed them and asked them: “Elestu be Rabbikum”, -- Am I not your Lord., and the souls said:  “Kalu bela”, -- indeed You are.  That is the promise of divine allegiancewhich the souls made to their Creator.  It is believed that the voice of Allah which the soul heard is the source of all music which touches the heart.

Then Allah sent the soul down to the material world.  It first passed through water and became wet, then passed through earth and became mud, and then passed through air and became dried clay, and then passed through fire and became fired clay.  All this weight covered the soul.  The “Kamil”, the “K” of the word “Kun,” when covered with matter became “Kafir,” which means both “covered”  and  “nonbeliever” in Arabic.  The soul is perfect and divine, attached to its Lord.  The material being, made out of water, earth, air and fire, is attached to the material world, which is also made out of the same four elements. Your body is but a donkey for you to ride and the world is its stable

It is thus that Allah sent the secrets of His essence which he entrusted to the soul down to earth to be manifested in His beautiful names and attributes manifested in His creation..  But man, in darkness, blindfolded by his material self is unable to see what is inside him and forgot what is divine in him.  Because matter is attracted to matter he became attached to the world and forgot his origin.

Allah had placed in man the means to return to Him, the means to pass the test which our father, Adam, passed..  That tool is the mind and the will, the personal decision, ability to choose the right over the wrong, the good over the bad and finally to submit to the greater will of the One who knows what is best for us, even if it seem to us the worst.  That is what Islam is.

Allah also sent one hundred and twenty four thousand prophets, the first of which is Hazreti Adem, a.s., and the last, Hazreti Muhammed, s.a.w.s to help us find our way back tro our origins .  The prophethood is finished by the last and the seal of prophethood, Hazreti Muhammed, s.a.w.s. who in his person contains all the prophets and the book revealed to him, the Holy Quran, which contains all the books which Allah sent prior to it.  Although the prophethood has ended, the billions of “wali ullah,” --saints, who are the inheritors of the prophets will continue coming until the end of time to help the human kind to wake up, to come out of the darkness of ignorance and to help men come close to their Lord.  By their help, if you take one step towards your Lord, Allah promises to take ten steps towards you.  Actually there are only seven steps to take to reach the level of “Kemal”, which Allah meant man to be,by the first letter of the word “Kun”, and to reach the level of clarity of “Nur” -- the divine light, represented by the last letter of the word of creation: “Nur” 

Those seven steps are: “Nafsi Ammarah” -- the evil commanding self, the ego, “Nafsi Lawamah” -- the self reproaching self, “Nafsi Mulhimah” -- the inspired self, “Nafsi Mutmainah” -- the self at peace with itself, “Nafsi Radziah” -- the self which is please with his lord, “Nafsi Mardhiyyah” -- the self with which his Lord is pleased, “Nafsi Kamilah” -- the perfect self.

1. Nafsi Ammarah, The evil commanding self.

A human being is as if two beings within each other.  There is the material self, which consists of the life within the body, the senses, the mind, the ability to move and the will. As all other matter, it has a soul of its own.  That soul is not eternal and is likened to the soul of animals, except, in a human being, it manifests itself worse than it manifests itself in an animal.  This soul is called the animal soul.  The other soul is called the human soul. Its manifestation is speech,, the ability to communicate and express itself.  Given the chance, it is this quality which may bring one to the level of “Nafsi Kamilah” -- the perfect self.

In the level of the evil commanding self, the human soul is overpowered by the animal soul.  Its manifestations are ignorance, arrogance, lust, jealousy and envy, ambition, miserliness, anger, negativity, spending one’s time on empty endeavors and in having fun, etc.  A human being under the influence of his ego has no morality or conscience.  Every horrible act from taking what does not belong to him to even taking life does not bother him.  In fact, he is proud of his ugly acts.

Even if someone under the influence of his ego is introduced to religion, his private devil whispers in his ear saying, “What business do you have walking this path, everyone who took this path is dead, even their guides.  What is left are some old books and forgotten words.  If you want to find the truth, who is going to lead you there, where are those people who are inspired, who do miracles.  All that belongs to the past.  There are science now which explain everything.  There is wealth with which you can buy anything.  Are you going to seek help from the dead, while all knowledge is in the computers under your fingers.”

What the ego does is to change the appearance of things, the sense of things, the truth of things.  It camouflages the truth as a lie and the lie as a truth, the ugly as beautiful and the beautiful as ugly.  In doing so it hides the truth and that is what “Kufr” means.  That is the source of faithlessness.  The truth is that at all times there are teachers able and readyto lead people to truth with knowledge inherited from the prophets.

If the fortunate few, althought under the influence of their  egos, are still able to seek  the truth while listening to the insinuations of their egos, sooner or later their efforts will lag and they will be disappointed in their search and their personal devil will speak to them saying,  “Allah is forgiving and the best way of finding Him is in experiencing His forgiveness and His compassion.  If you don’t do wrong, what is their to forgive.  Listen to the desires of your flesh.  Your flesh and your desires are also His creation.”

If the seeker goes under the wisperings of his imagination, he opts for the unlawful which is shown to him as beautiful and desirable and leaves the lawful, which his ego makes it hard for him to follow.  At best he becomes doubtful.

If perchance he is able to hear the feeble voice of his human soul imprisoned in the depths of his being, which warns him that while he is spending all his energy in having fun, and is utterly lazy in doing anything for his salvation and his hereafter and that his eternal life depends upon living in accordance with the rules of his religion and in following a guide on the path of the seekers of truth, he may have a chance to raise to the second level on the development of mankind, the level of “Nafsi Lawwamah,” --the self reproaching self.

2.  Nafsi Lawamah, the self reproaching self. 

Because, now that man has heard the voice of his human soul, he knowsoif its existence and he is in communication with it, although he is still under the influence of the desires of his flesh.  But, at occasions, even flippantly, he has tried to be humble instead of his usual arrogance and tried to show love in spite of his usual vengefulness, has been gentle occasionally in spite of his harshness and tried to be decent in spite of his usual immorality.  And he has liked the results and in spite of himself, he felt that there was something right in these new experiences.  And because he has experienced them himself, now when he hears and reads that these are the right things to do and the right way to be, he understands it and starts believing in it, yet he can not stop his old ways.  But he is able now, at least occasionally to distinguish the right from the wrong and even feel regret when he does wrong.  He may even start doing his prayers, fast, give alms, but often these are done hypocritically because he wants others to know about his good deeds.  At times he realizes his hypocrisy and he suffers, yet he is still under the influence of his ego which manifests itself at this period of one’s development in extreme anger and arrogance.  Anger is one of the strongest weapons in the hands of his ego, which could be deadly for the ones around such a person as well as for his own self.  The cause of anger is arrogance.

There is an immediate cure for this if the one at this level is able to follow it.  A full wallet and a full stomach are the principle causes of both arrogance and anger.  Thus a purposeful effort of giving freely from one’s wallet and eating and sleeping less gives an immediate result.

Between the feeling and manifestation of anger there are only moments to stop manifesting anger.  If one is standing, one should sit, if one is sitting, one should lie down or fall on one’s knees and take refuge in Allah, praying to take away the anger verbally and audibly.  If this does not suffice, one should take ablution with cold water and do two cycles of prayer.

The second medicine is to reflect on ones weakness and vulnerability and fear not only the retaliation of others against oneself but also of Allah’s vengeance.

These are but momentary solutions.  Even this attempt to overcome the violent manifestation of one’s ego may became a reason to be proud, because at the level of self-reproachment, the ego blows up every good deed to enormous dimensions and is proud of them. It pretends to be the voice of salvation and whispers to one’s ear,  “You know it all now.  You don’t need to listen to anybody.  All those sheikhs, preachers, men who call themselves wise and knowledgeable should apply their advice to themselves and do one tenth of the good deeds which you are doing . . . “

Often enough one lends one’s ear to such whisperings of one’s ego and is full of one’s self then one stops listening, stops being led and falls back to being its slave. 

Often enough one’s private devil prevents one from doing right.  If one is able to do it, the ego annuls it with hypocrisy or pride.  Even if one overcomes that hinderance then the ego suggests a task, a deed which one is absolutely unable to do and when one fails, all the previous efforts are lost.. 

For instance, one such person is led by his ego to go to the Hajj , while he is absolutely unprepared for the difficulties of the Pilgrimage, the hardships and the misbehavior of other pilgrims like him which he views with disdain takes away his faith instead of strengthening it.

At this level one is in desperate need of a guide and of great effort to try to see the source of his troubles, his prime enemy, his ego and try to learn what is right and what is wrong according to the laws of one’s religion and with the help of Allah may reach to the third step of “Nafsi Mulhimah,” -- the inspired self.

3.  Nafsi Mulhimah, The inspired self. 

As a response to one’s efforts and in the light of the cognizance of the right and the wrong, Allah, most high, sends inspirations to his servant in this stage.  It is an intermediary stage full of pitfalls and dangers. The ego, to confuse the seeker, bombards him with imaginary revelations, dreams and miracles.  That is why the need of a guide is more important at this stage than at any other stage.  The seeker should have complete confidence in his teacher and tell him everything without hiding anything, all his aspirations, experiences, errors, sins, even his reactions, dislike, doubt and hatred which he may feel toward his sheikh.  For, it is only his sheikh who is going to know what are truly divine inspirations and what are the temptations of the devil. He must follow his sheikh’s instruction to the word.  His evolution depends wholly on this and because of this, the whole effort of the ego is directed to break the tie between the student and the teacher.  It sends strong and miraculous messages to make the seeker believe that they are divine inspirations, suggesting that his sheikh is worthless and false.  A sheikh is a mirror where the seeker is supposed to see himself and what he sees as ugly in his sheikh is nothing else but his own reflection.  In this tempest of one’s evolution in life the only life saver is to hold on to the”Shariah,” --the rules of one’s religion.  Specially the five times prayer a day should be done with all care and preparation.  The ego will create all sorts of resistance in one who tries to follow the Sheriah to overcome this resistance theweapon is love, love of Allah, love of the Beloved of Allah and the love of the ones who love Allah and the love of one’s sheikh.  For, the one who loves someone, obeys the wishes of the beloved. 

Another sign of this level is a feeling of nothingness, a feeling of not knowing who one is.  One forgets what one knew, one has difficulty in seeing things, in understanding things, one’s senses become undependable, but these are not a sign of loosing oneself in Allah,as one’s ego tells one,  but a sign of one’s state which is in limbo and in great danger.

And one’s personal devil whispers to one’s ear,  “Now you have seen everything and understood everything and know everything, there is no need for you to spend so much effort, you are receiving Allah’s messages directly, you don’t need anyone to show you the right way.  There is even no need for you to exteriorize your faith by praying, fasting, giving alms, doing good deeds.  Remember when you did that you wanted others to see.  That is hypocrisy.  Hidden worship is what you should do.  Contemplate, meditate, that is what is your due now.”  If this advice is followed, all meditation without doing what Allah has ordained will bring nothing more than imaginary  revelations in which the devil whispers, pretending to be God, “You are the truth of your Lord, you are now with Him, one and united, all that is due for ordinary people, that which is obligatory or forbidden for them does not apply to you any more.  What you want to do, no matter how it appears to others, is no longer from you but from your Lord.  So do what you will, there is no responsibility to you.”

May Allah protect us from these dangers in the level of the inspired self.  It may darken one’s heart, one’s mind, one’s eyes, that one will be totally blind to reality and truth.  
While believing that one is faithful, all faith is lost.  Drunkenness, adultery, theft, even murder will seem lawful because there is no more the fear of God.  While believing that one is with one’s Lord, one’s Lord becomes the Satan.

Only if one passes through these trials by the mercy of Allah and the example of the Prophet and the guidance of one’s sheikh and one’s bitter battle with one’s ego, one may reach the fourth level of “Nafsi Mutmainnah”  -- the self at peace.

4.  Nafsi Mutmainnah,  The self at peace.

The human soul, having heard its Lord, Battled with its ego which is now weakened and ready to accept to orders of its Lord, feels at peace and is content.

At this level all actions of the seeker correspond to the religious rules.  He takes pleasure in its attempt to imitate the Messenger of Allah.  When he talks what he says says corresponds to the holy Quran and to the traditions of the holy Prophet and to the interpretations of the wise and nothing from himself.  Therefore the ones who hear him truly listen to him because what comes from his tongue is the beauty and the truth which Allah reveals to his heart.  Thus, he teaches the ones who wish to learn with words and with actions which are manifested in him: generosity, trust in Allah satisfaction with hi state, submission to his Lord, patience, trustworthiness, hopefulness, thankfulness, gentleness, forgiveness . . .   He does not care about the miracles which come through him, because he knows that if he claims them as his own or cares for them that they will lead him to harm and to shamefulness.  He denies these miracles, hides them.  According to him, everything, every thought which does not correspond to the religious law is to be rejected, specially concepts pertaining to one’s inner state, false spiritual and mystical endeavor which does not correspond to the outer reality and behavior which he denies.  On the other hand, he believes that there is a secret behind every exterior reality or act and he who does not abide with these exterior realities can never advance, neither will he ever know the real realities hidden under the surface of visual existences.

He is no longer bothered neither with his private devil, his ego, nor the satan.  He is now above them. The devil can no longer reach him, even if he did, he cannot find a way to enter his heart. Even if he did, he cannot prevent him from advancing on the path to truth. As the satan tried once to lead him astray, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilani told him from the skies:  “Oh, Abdul Qadir, I am your Lord and my reward to you is all that I have rendered unlawful to others is lawful to you.  So do what you wish.”  The saint answered:  “I know who you are, oh, the accursed Satan, for I know that what the Lord has ordained is for everyone without any exception.”  Thus the dangers of the previous levels do not exist any more.  Now, to reach the higher levels is much easier.  Allah takes him by the hand and leads him as He promises:

“Oh the satisfied self at peace, return to thy Lord, well pleased
and well pleasing and enter amongst My good servants and enter
my Paradise.” (Fajr 27-30)

5.  Nafsi Radhiyah,  The self which is pleased with his Lord.

The human soul at peace and in harmony with divine harmony is pleased with his Lord.  Now he is protected from doing wrong.  His cleansed heart is filled with love and peace.  He has reached to the truth of Islam, having given his will to the greater will of Allah.  He sees his Lord all around him, thus he accepts whatever exists, whatever happens in this world and in this life without opposition, rejection or the slightest of disturbance.  He considers it all as natural, yet, as he is in total control of his ego, he does not have any inclination towards that which Allah has rendered unlawful.

When he prays and asks from his Lord, Allah responds immediately and answers his prayers, yet he would be ashamed to ask for anything unless in extreme need and what he asks is given to him.  Allah loves him and in the inner spiritual world, has placed him on a throne , that all that exists in the exterior world is now under his command.

6.  Nafsi Mardhiyyah, The self with which his Lord is pleased.

On this level, where the human soul has approached its origin, his Creator’s attributes are reflected in him.  Divine character, perfect behavior, is manifest in him.  He is hider of faults, forgiving, compassionate, generous.  He loves all mankind and strives to pull them out from the dark dungeon of their egos. The love of humankind in his heart is only for Allah’s sake.  In him the love of the Creator for the created and the love of the created for their Lord is united.

In everything done by him, no fault can be found, for his whole being , his words and his actions are measured , neither more nor less, but in perfect balance at the median . . .  To be at the median may appear easy to achieve.  In fact, it is the desire for everyone, yet very few can do it.  In fact, it is a state with which only the ones who are at this high level are blessed.

This is the level where one receives for the first time the good news that to be a perfect human being is possible.  And that good news is the realization of what Allah has said:
“I taught Adem all the names.”  At this level he becomes cognizant of these names in himself, but no name, no words can explain that state of cognizance, because it cannot

be compared to anything one ordinarily experiences in this life in this world.

7.  Nafsi Kamilah - Nafsi Saffiyah.  The purified, perfect self.

The tests which one passes through life have past.  The battle is won. The ego, the material body, one’s personal devil have become Muslim, the level in which one was created, the best of all Allah’s creation, to whom Allah has entrusted His trust and has made His deputy in the universe, to whom He said:  “I would not have created all and everything if it were not for you.”  “I have created all and everything for you and you for Myself.”  There is no longer the inner man and the outer man, the soul and the body, all has become one and perfect.  One has no longer any needs nor any wishes, except his Lords wishes.  He is pure good.  All good, all knowledge, all wisdom, all beauty, all power is His.  His presence is the manifestation of all this, pure joy and peace for all around him.

He is totally conscious.  His whole being, every cell in his body is in continuous remembrance, worship and thankfulness.  Yet he is also in continuous repentance.  He is most humble.  His joy is in seeing others turn towards God.  His pain is in seeing men turning their backs to their Lord.  He loves people who yearn for their Lord, who love their Lord more than their own children.  Both his love and his sadness and even at times his anger are never from himself but for Allah’s sake.  He is absolute justice and everything he intends and does is equal to what Allah intended.

OTHER MEANS AND STEPS TO BE TAKEN RELATING TO THE LAST THREE STAGES OF THE NAFS.

At the level of Nafsi Radhiyah the seeker generally receives instruction by knowledge acquired indirectly through hearing the words of the wise or through reading. (Ilm al yaqin)  While, on the level of Nafsi Mardhiyah, this does not suffice. He needs knowledge which he must receive directly through his own experience. (Ayn al yaqin)  On the final level of Nafsi saffiyah, he has become the knowledge. (Haq al yaqin)

At the level of Nafsi Radhiyah he receives the manifestation of his Lords actions; on the level of Mardhiyah he is the recipient of his Lord’s attributes, and on the level of perfection, Nafsi Saffiyah, his Lord’s essence is manifest in him.

The purpose of knowledge is to come close to Allah, thus the first step of knowledge is obtained  through teachers and books and other media of communication.  The next more dependable knowledge is learned from one’s own experiences and observations and the final means of knowledge is in becoming that which one has learned. 

Many believe that it suffices to be a Muslim by repeating the word of tevhid, “Eshshedu en laillahe ilallah wa eshshedu enne Muhammed arrasulullah”  I witness that there is no God but Allah and I witness that Muhammed is His servant and His messenger.  Yet they have witnessed nothing.  What is necessary for a believer is to see Allah’s attributes in His creation which is all around one and to see how they are all related, connected, created from the same elements, sustained by the same elements and created by one Creator, and to know, to see what is around one’s self is not enough either.  One must be one with what one sees and knows.  This necessitates time and effort and yet all time and effort is not enough until one deserves to receive this knowledge from one’s Lord.

As one knows there are certain manifestations of one’s knowledge in one’s being. 

The first is the manifestation of divine actions which appear in the one who is at the level of Nafsi Radhiyah. As he is pleased with all that his Lord does, his Lord acts in him and through him.  It is as if he sees with his Lords eyes, he hears with his Lord’s ears, he holds with his Lord’s hands and he walks with his Lord’s feet.  Only the one who is at this level knows how it feels.

At the level of Nafsi Mardhiyah Allah manifests His beautiful names in him.  Under the power of this gift the recipient is in such awe that he forgets his own being, his own name, just as our father Hazreti Adem when Allah asked him his name, answered that he did not know and that he did not have a name.  At that level, when Allah calls upon His servant with one of His beautiful names which He has placed in him, the servant answers: “Labbayk,” -- I am here my Lord.  When He calls upon him:  “Ya, Sami,” not only does he hear his Lord, but he hears and understands the language of all the animals, plants and rocks.

At the level of Nafsi Kamilah, -- the perfect being,  man has reached the level of “He who knows himself, knows his Lord.”  His heart  is now a mirror in which his Lord is reflected.  As Allah says:  “I do not fit into the heavens and earth which I have created, but I fit into the loving heart of my faithful servant.” 

At the summit of man’s evolution all becomes one, the divine actions which are all that happens, the divine names and attributes, which are the qualities of all and everything and the essence which is the cause of everything.  If we imagine the whole universe as a book, everything in it is as if a word.  When man tries to tell the story in the book of the universe, he translates it into his own language. In the grammar of man’s language there are nouns, the names of things, and adjectives, attributes, describing the things and verbs, actions of the things.  One can liken this effort of man to understand the divine harmony and unity to a prism which makes colors from white light.  From every name and from every attribute of the named all sorts of actions occur.  The first thing to realize is the actions which effects one, then, what reasons, what qualities from which these actions occur, then the things which have those qualities that are responsibe for these actions, then who it is who triggered all that, which created all that from whom all that comes.  Then it is understood that all this, although not Him, is from Him, from His Essence.

All this simplified explanation is too general and too abstract.  The only true way of understanding it is in living it and being it.  DOtherwise the meaning of words differs from one man to another or for the same man what it meant yeaterday what it may mean tomorrow.  And in all that we see, from the atom to the far galaxies, there is a secret hidden.  These secrets are only for the ones who are close to the Creator of all and through knowing themselves, come to know Him.  Even the words which you read in these pages will mean different things to each one of you and some of you will not understand and some of you will not even be able to read it, for man understands only the things which he already knows.  To read the book of the universe is much harder that that.

May Allah most high bless the soul of Hazreti Ibrahim Hakki Erzurumi from whose wise words these words were humbly adapted for our understanding.

Tosun Bayrak Al Haj Al Jerrahi