In this first level of the development of man, the rational self and human conscience have been defeated by lust and carnal desires. At this stage, our self does not recognize any rational or moral barriers to get what it wants.
It expresses itself in selfishness, arrogance, ambition, stinginess, envy, anger, cynicism, laziness and stupidity. Originally, nafs, one's self, identity, ones own personality and reality, is one of the
Creator's gifts to man. But because we allow it to lean towards material values, to take pleasure only in worldly life, and because we succumb to fleshly lusts, it has turned ugly and become almost animal-like, while its shape remains that of a human being.
It is a fauve camouflaged in the appearance of man, a mad wild animal which bites and claws itself as well as others. This ego is our private devil, our worst enemy, who is living inside us, dominating and tyrannizing us and keeping our human soul imprisoned and forgotten
in the depths of our subconscious.
If we are fortunate enough to be led by a guide to seek a better state, then the devil whispers in our ear: "What business do you have to be on this path? Don't you see that everyone who was on this Path sooner or later died? All that remains of them is a few words. I know that you want the Truth, but where are the wise ones who would be able to teach you anything? Show me a single saintly man who receives revelations, who can show miracles! They belonged to another time.
Now is the time of facts, of science, of prosperity, and the good life. If you want to be religious - all right! Go to the mosque, pray, fast, and pray that the spirits of these holy men of the past
help you, for there is no teacher alive worth your while!"
Thus the devil hides the truth. Kufr, infidelity, means covering, hiding in Arabic. Kafir, the infidel, means the one who hides something. The devil conceals the fact that at all times there are
perfect men in the world and worthy teachers who can lead one to salvation.
Our Master, The Messenger of Allah (saws), has two aspects. One is his prophethood, nubuwwa; the other is his sainthood, his friendship, closeness to Allah, or walaya. He is Khatem al Anbiya: the last, the Seal of Prophethood, but his other aspect of sainthood has always been and will always be inherited by perfect men, who love and imitate him, and they will exist at all times, until the end of time.
But if the seeker pays any attention to the insinuations of the devil, he suffers doubt about his teacher, he is called away from the Path, his efforts are slowed down, and he will lend his ear to the whispers of the accursed devil again. This time he will say, "Allah is forgiving, count on His Mercy; He does not dislike people who do things which He permits. Be kind to yourself and don't tyrannize yourself. If you are kind towards your ego and give it things it wants, then it will obey you!" If the seeker is fooled by these temptations, he will start having doubts; he will then be unclear as to whether things are lawful or unlawful, whether they are right or wrong. When that happens, he is more likely to opt for the unlawful, since it is usually more pleasing to the senses. And the more his senses are satisfied, the more his heart will be blinded and hardened,
and the more he will be led towards evil.
On the level of the evil commanding ego, all these influences are very heavy. To get out from under them, someone strong has to hold you by your hand and extricate you. It is very difficult if not impossible to do it by yourself.
But through Allah's help, you may hear the voice of reason which says, "To do what Allah permits one to do out of His Mercy, instead of doing that which He orders us to do, is the profession of creatures who are lazy." For the true servants of Allah, it is an obligation to live
according to the rules of Shariat and the ideals of the Tariqat.
And if we either follow this rational decision, which is an undeserved gift of Allah Most High, or we are rescued from our misery by a strong teacher, then we may rise to the second level of Nafs al Lawwamah.
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 so wills.
Nafs al Lawwamah
This is the second step in the development of man, when man becomes aware of his actions, is able to differentiate right from wrong, and regrets his wrong doings. 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, a major sin, is the principal danger in this state.
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, lying to ourselves, hypocrisy, anger, and intolerance are the soldiers of the devil. At the level of Nafs al Lawwamah we are not safe from the devil, who 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. Certainly the world cannot lose
its attractiveness for him; it calls to and tempts him.
If the resolve of the seeker is weak, he will beIn anger, he may attempt to do much greater deeds than he is incapable of, and fail. Failure will further anger him. His mood will become dark, disappointed; he will think he took the wrong way, that he was better off before, and he may blame the ones who led him to this Path,
afflicted with arrogance, not listen to good advice, and in fact,
fight with the ones who wish for his well being, thinking they are
belittling him and behaving in a superior manner.
falling back to his previous condition of being an animal in human shape.
If he is warned at the beginning of the second step of Nafs al Lawwamah of these dangers, and if he is intelligent enough not to release the hand that leads him, and if he follows the advice on how
to fight the three enemies of hypocrisy, anger, and arrogance, he will pass this stage quickly. The longer one lingers in this transitory stage, the worse will be the trials.
The cure for hypocrisy is to realize how the value of everything in the world, including the opinions of others, is temporal, inconstant and subjective, changing from minute to minute, from place to place, from person to person, and finally disappearing. Therefore, one should opt for that which is permanent, eternal, and powerful instead of something which may be here now and gone tomorrow. What fool lights a candle when the sun is out? Do not count on the respect and the praise of others, and do not fear them. For it is said, "Whoever praises you is your enemy because he is the ally of your enemy, and whoever points out what is wrong with you is the enemy of your enemy."
The cure for arrogance is to remember that your beginning came from a drop of semen from your father and an ovum in your mother's belly, and that your end will be as a rotten corpse in the ground. Beauty, strength, intelligence, will soon dwindle and disappear. All your fortune, properties, reputation, and friends will be excluded when you are lowered alone into your tomb. Your prayers, piety and good deeds, if performed to impress others, will evaporate, and worse still, may turn against you.
Realize that all you have, including your body and your very life, is not yours, but lent to you and entrusted to you by your Creator. Your actions are also His if they are good, and when they are bad, it is you who are tyrannizing yourself. Offer thanks for everything, and feel shame your wrongdoings; then you will be humble. The fall of the one who stands low is much less painful than the one who falls from high.
The cure for anger is basically accomplished if you can cure your arrogance. It is the arrogant one who becomes angered by adversity, or even by lack of sufficient rewards which he thinks he is owed. The negative emotion of anger, when it flares up, is faster than the rational effort to suppress it. Once anger has caught fire it is difficult to extinguish. Like fire, it burns all that is human in us; compassion, love, gentleness, generosity, the ability to communicate, to think of consequences, and intelligence are all reduced to ashes. All that remains is a dangerous wounded wild animal.
As a remedy to recall and remember our humanity, The Messenger of Allah (saws) suggests that when anger strikes, immediately you should change your posture. If you were standing, you should sit. If you were sitting you should fall to your knees. It is difficult to shout and curse in the most humble position of kneeling.
Or you should lie on your back and pray: "Oh Lord, enrich me with knowledge, beautify me with kindness, give me the gift of piety and the fear and love of You and sanity and health, Amin"
Or you should go and take ablution with cold water.If we could avoid these dangers, with Allah's will and the guidance of our religion, and the help of our teacher, and our wish to advance, we might rise to the third level of Nafs al Mulhimah, the level where we receives the Lord's inspirations.
Shaikh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi