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Understanding the soul in Islam

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*Understanding the soul in Islam🌱* 🌾

Abu Amina Elias ✍🏽

In the identify of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Self-knowledge is important to the non secular growth of each Muslim believer. One should know the make-up of his or her psyche in order to optimally enhance it. Islam supplies us with a blueprint of the human soul for this very goal.

The psyche (inner-self) of a person consists of 4 components: the coronary heart (qalb), the spirit (ruh), the self or ego (nafs), and the thoughts (‘aql). Each half displays a unique side of the psyche, though they work together with one another in ways in which overlap.

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In strange language, every time period can seek advice from the composite entire of the psyche, so one might converse of their “heart” or “self” to imply their complete inner-being. But for the goal of non secular growth, it is very important spotlight the delicate distinctions between these phrases.

Imam al-Ghazali explains the completely different meanings of those 4 phrases in Kitab Sharh ‘Aja’ib al-Qalb of his magnum opus. Each time period has multiple that means relying on the context in which it’s used. Like Al-Ghazali, our curiosity ought to be in how distinguishing the components of the psyche can assist our quest to purify our souls.

The first time period “heart” can seek advice from the corporeal coronary heart, the bodily organ inside the chest that pumps blood all through the physique. It can even seek advice from the ethereal coronary heart, the inner-most consciousness that’s the essence of the human being.

Al-Ghazali writes:

والمعنى الثاني هو لطيفة ربانية روحانية لها بهذا القلب الجسماني تعلق وتلك اللطيفة هي حقيقة الإنسان وهو المدرك العالم العارف من الإنسان وهو المخاطب والمعاقب والمعاتب والمطالب

The second that means of coronary heart is a delicate, heavenly, and non secular substance it has, which is expounded to the bodily coronary heart. This delicate substance is the true essence of the human being. It is the aware, understanding, and perceiving a part of the human being. It is addressed, punished, blamed, and accountable.

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Source: Iḥyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn 3/3

The ethereal coronary heart ought to be our most vital concern, as a result of nobody will profit on the Day of Judgment except they convey a pure coronary heart with them.

Allah mentioned:

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

A Day in which wealth and youngsters is not going to profit, besides one who involves Allah with a pure coronary heart.

Surat al-Shu’ara 26:88-89

Both the bodily and ethereal hearts are important for the well being of the human being. If the bodily coronary heart is broken or malfunctioning, it may well shortly result in sudden loss of life. If the ethereal coronary heart is corrupted by non secular ailments, it’ll result in a kind of non secular loss of life and damnation in the Hereafter.

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Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, mentioned:

وَإِنَّ فِي الْجَسَدِ مُضْغَةً إِذَا صَلَحَتْ صَلَحَ الْجَسَدُ كُلُّهُ وَإِذَا فَسَدَتْ فَسَدَ الْجَسَدُ كُلُّهُ أَلَا وَهِيَ الْقَلْبُ

Verily, in the physique is a chunk of flesh which, if sound, the complete physique is sound, and if corrupt, the complete physique is corrupt. Truly, it’s the coronary heart.

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 52, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Hence, the issues of the coronary heart are amongst the most vital branches of information in the complete faith. Purifying the coronary heart of inner sins like conceitedness, malice, and envy is paramount to our success in this life and the subsequent. We can higher perceive purify the coronary heart by recognizing the ways in which the different components of the psyche affect it.

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The second time period “spirit” can seek advice from the life-force that permeates and animates the physique. When the spirit is eliminated, the physique will die. It can even seek advice from the higher-self, the capability of a human being to obtain divine inspiration (ilham) and steering from Allah.

Al-Ghazali writes:

المعنى الثاني هو اللطيفة العالمة المدركة من الإنسان وهو الذي شرحناه في أحد معاني القلب … وهو أمر عجيب رباني تعجز أكثر العقول والأفهام عن درك حقيقته

The second that means of spirit is the delicate, understanding, aware substance of the human being, which now we have defined is considered one of the meanings of the coronary heart… It is a wondrous, heavenly matter. Most individuals of mind and understanding are unable to conceive of its actuality.

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Source: Iḥyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn 3/3

The modality in which the spirit animates the physique is considered one of the universe’s biggest mysteries. Being a side of the Unseen, it can’t be studied or recognized by the normal scientific methodology.

Allah mentioned:

وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الرُّوحِ ۖ قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُم مِّنَ الْعِلْمِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

They ask you about the spirit. Say: The spirit is amongst the affairs of my Lord, you might have been given little data of it.

Surat al-Isra’ 17:85

The spirit has a lordly and heavenly high quality (rabbani), that means it’s the side of the psyche that displays the attributes of the Creator. Allah blew His created spirit into human beings, ensuing in their skill to see, to listen to, and to understand with their hearts.

Allah mentioned:

ثُمَّ سَوَّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِهِ ۖ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ

Then, He usual him and blew into him from His spirit. He made for you listening to, seeing, and hearts, but little are you grateful.

Surat al-Sajdah 32:8

Al-Baydawi commented on this verse, writing:

إِضَافَةً إِلَى نَفْسِهِ تَشْرِيفًا لَهُ وَإِشْعَارًا بِأَنَّهُ خَلْقٌ عَجِيبٌ وَأَنَّ لَهُ شَأْنًا لَهُ مُنَاسَبَةٌ مَا إِلَى الْحَضْرَةِ الرُّبُوبِيَّةِ وَلِأَجْلِهِ قِيلَ مَنْ عَرَفَ نَفْسَهُ فَقَدْ عَرَفَ رَبَّهُ

It provides the Aristocracy to himself and signifies that humanity is a wondrous creation, that his status is suitable sufficient to enter the presence of the Lord. For this purpose, it’s mentioned: Whoever is aware of himself, is aware of his Lord.

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Source: Tafsīr al-Bayḍāwī 32:8

Allah is ideal in His listening to, seeing, and understanding, in addition to His justice, mercy, and kindness. Human beings even have these attributes, albeit in smaller finite measure. When a believer is type, for instance, she or he is merely reflecting the attribute of kindness discovered inside the Creator. In this manner, one who actually is aware of themselves will know their Lord.

Al-Ghazali writes:

فمن عرف سر الروح فقد عرف نفسه وإذا عرف نفسه فقد عرف ربه وإذا عرف نفسه وربه عرف أنه أمر رباني بطبعه وفطرته وأنه في العالم الجسماني غريب وأن هبوطه إليه لم يكن بمقتضى طبعه في ذاته

Whoever is aware of the mysteries of the spirit, is aware of himself. If he is aware of himself, he is aware of his Lord. If he is aware of himself and his Lord, he is aware of his matter is heavenly in his nature and his intuition, and that he’s a stranger in the corporeal world, that his first rate into it isn’t on account of his nature in itself.

Source: Iḥyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn 3/382

Everyone has the pure capability to activate and domesticate the spirit, their increased degree of consciousness in relation to Allah. Like a mirror, a pure coronary heart displays divine mild from the spirit into the world. In order to attain such a pure coronary heart, one should comply with the affect of the spirit upon the coronary heart, versus the whims of the lower-self.

Al-Ghazali writes:

فالقلب في حكم مرآة قد اكتنفته هذه الأمور المؤثرة فيه وهذه الآثار على التواصل واصلة إلى القلب أما الآثار المحمودة التي ذكرناها فإنها تزيد مرآة القلب جلاء وإشراقاً ونوراً وضياءً حتى يتلألأ فيه جلية الحق وينكشف فيه حقيقة الأمر المطلوب في الدين

For the coronary heart is in the place of a mirror that’s surrounded by influences and these results proceed in succession to the coronary heart. As for praiseworthy influences that now we have talked about, they are going to polish the mirror of the coronary heart and enhance it in brilliance, mild, and radiance till the readability of the Truth shines from inside it and the actuality of the matter sought in faith is unveiled inside it.

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Source: Iḥyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn 3/12

The third time period “self” can seek advice from an individual’s id or the composite entire of their psyche. This is how the time period is usually used in strange language. As a particular time period, the self can seek advice from the lower-self, ego, or id, which is the receptacle of fundamental sensations, feelings, and instincts like worry, aggression, and carnal want.

Al-Ghazali writes:

أحدهما أنه يراد به المعنى الجامع لقوة الغضب والشهوة في الإنسان على ما سيأتي شرحه وهذا الاستعمال هو الغالب على أهل التصوف لأنهم يريدون بالنفس الأصل الجامع للصفات المذمومة من الإنسان فيقولون لا بد من مجاهدة النفس وكسرها

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One of the supposed meanings of ‘self’ is the mixture of colleges of anger and urge for food in the human being, and primarily based on this it is going to be defined. This utilization is prevalent amongst the students of spirituality (ahl al-tasawwuf), that they imply by ‘self’ the mixed origin of blameworthy traits inside the human being, such that they are saying one should attempt towards the self and break it.

Source: Iḥyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn 3/4

The lower-self isn’t evil in itself, as these most elementary emotions in our psyche are important to our survival. However, in contrast to the spirit, the lower-self tends to comply with its dangerous whims (hawa’) and lusts (shahawat), a weak point that’s the major weapon of Satan. The crucial of the believer is to reign in the lower-self and convey it beneath management of the higher-self.

Allah mentioned:

وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَىٰ

As for him who feared to face earlier than his Lord and he restrained his ego from his whims, Paradise might be his refuge.

Surat al-Nazi’at 79:40

For this purpose, many students referred to the ‘self’ as an enemy towards which we should always wage non secular warfare. The true jihad, in reality, is to battle in jihad towards the lower-self and its whims.

Fadalah ibn ‘Ubayd reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, mentioned:

الْمُجَاهِدُ مَنْ جَاهَدَ نَفْسَهُ

The one who strives in jihad is he who strives towards his ego.

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Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1621, Grade: Sahih

It is in this context that Sahl ibn Abdullah, might Allah have mercy on him, mentioned:

إِذَا عَرَفَ الْعَدُوَّ عَرَفَ رَبَّهُ

If one is aware of the enemy, one is aware of his Lord.

Source: Ḥilyat al-Awliyā’ 10/201

That is, if one actually understands why their lower-self is their enemy, they’ve come to understand what their Lord expects of them and their have to domesticate their higher-self.

It is widespread for Imams to start sermons by searching for refuge in Allah from the evil of our personal selves. The Prophet (ṣ) himself did so and taught his companions to do likewise.

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‘Imran ibn Husayn reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, mentioned:

اللَّهُمَّ أَلْهِمْنِي رُشْدِي وَأَعِذْنِي مِنْ شَرِّ نَفْسِي

O Allah, encourage me with steering and defend me from the evil of my ego.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3483, Grade: Jayyid

In this supplication, the Prophet (ṣ) is asking for Allah to encourage him with the spirit and in opposition to his lower-self. This demonstrates our have to comply with the affect of the spirit in order to purify our hearts and defend us from the dangerous whims of the ego.

The fourth time period “mind” likewise has numerous shades of that means that overlap with the different phrases. It is usually distinguished from the different phrases as the mental capability of human beings to purpose, suppose, know, ponder, replicate, and perceive.

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Al-Ghazali writes:

والعقل قد يطلق ويراد به صفة العالم وقد يطلق ويراد به محل الإدراك

The ‘mind’ is utilized to imply the high quality of understanding and it’s utilized to imply the seat of consciousness.

Source: Iḥyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn 3/4

The thoughts is essential as a result of it’s the receptacle of aware thought, the place reflection takes place and concepts are contemplated and understood. It is taken into account to be considered one of the pillars of being human.

Umar ibn al-Khattab, might Allah be happy with him, mentioned:

أَصْلُ الرَّجُلِ عَقْلُهُ وَحَسَبُهُ دِينُهُ وَمُرُوءَتُهُ خُلُقُهُ

The basis of a person is his thoughts, his honor is in his faith, and his manhood is in his character.

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Source: Adab al-Dunyā wal-Dīn 1/17

The thoughts influences the coronary heart by the aware ideas we select to entertain. We should not accountable and don’t have management over computerized or involuntary ideas, which come up from the lower-self or the whispering of Satan. Rather, we’re accountable and have management over the ideas we intentionally interact. Gaining mastery over our aware ideas and altering damaging thought-patterns is a psychological ability referred to as cognitive restructuring, which will be cultivated by means of mindfulness observe.

Many students contemplate the basis of non secular wayfaring (suluk) to be mindfulness over one’s personal ideas, as Ibn al-Qayyim talked about:

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وَهَذَا كَثِيرٌ مِنْ أَرْبَابِ السُّلُوكِ بَنَوْا سُلُوكَهُمْ عَلَى حِفْظِ الْخَوَاطِرِ وَأَنْ لَا يُمَكِّنُوا خَاطِرًا يَدْخُلُ قُلُوبَهُمْ حَتَّى تَصِيرَ الْقُلُوبُ فَارِغَةً قَابِلَةً لِلْكَشْفِ وَظُهُورِ حَقَائِقِ الْعُلْوِيَّاتِ فِيهَا

Many of the masters of non secular wayfaring primarily based their journeying upon guarding their ideas, that they’d not allow a thought to enter their hearts till the hearts have been prepared and accepting for unveiling and the presence of upper realities inside it.

Source: al-Dā’ wal-Dawā’ 1/158

All evil deeds are preceded by evil ideas, and all dangerous ideas may cause bodily and emotional misery, equivalent to despair and nervousness. Good ideas come from the higher-self, and unhealthy ideas comes from the lower-self or Satan. These ideas can have a profound impact on the emotions we expertise and the actions we undertake, so one should be taught the mindfulness ability of shutting down unhealthy trains of thought as they come up.

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Ibn al-Qayyim writes:

فَإِنَّ الْخَطْرَةَ تَنْقَلِبُ وَسْوَسَةً وَالْوَسْوَسَةُ تَصِيرُ إِرَادَةً وَالْإِرَادَةُ تَقْوَى فَتَصِيرُ عَزِيمَةً ثُمَّ تَصِيرُ فِعْلًا ثُمَّ تَصِيرُ صِفَةً لَازِمَةً وَهَيْئَةً ثَابِتَةً رَاسِخَةً وَحِينَئِذٍ يَتَعَذَّرُ الْخُرُوجُ مِنْهُمَا كَمَا يَتَعَذَّرُ الْخُرُوجُ مِنْ صِفَاتِهِ الْقَائِمَةِ بِهِ

For a thought turns right into a suggestion, and a suggestion turns into an intention, and an intention strengthens till it turns into a willpower, then it turns into an motion, then it turns into a needed description, a type established and grounded. In that case, it turns into not possible to expel them simply as it’s not possible to expel a permanent attribute.

Source: al-Dā’ wal-Dawā’ 1/158


And Ibn al-Qayyim writes:

فى ذكر طريق يوصل إلى الاستقامة فى الأحوال والأقوال والأعمال وهى شيئان أحدهما حراسة الخواطر وحفظها والحذر من إهمالها والاسترسال معها فإن أصل الفساد كله من قبلها يجيء لأنها هى بذر الشيطان والنفس فى أَرض القلب

In mentioning the path to integrity (istiqamah) in one’s states, phrases, and deeds, there are two issues. The first is to protect one’s ideas and defend them, to watch out for neglecting them and indulging with them. Indeed, it’s the origin of each evil earlier than it involves be, as they’re the seed of Satan and the lower-self in the soil of the coronary heart.

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Source: Ṭarīq al-Hijratayn 1/175

One can’t be actually conscious of Allah till they’re conscious of the sorts of ideas they select to interact. Learning to be conscious of our ideas is important for us to be protected by Allah in our bodily, psychological, and non secular well being.

Al-Qushayri writes:

وَقَالَ بَعْضهم من راقب اللَّه تَعَالَى فِي خواطره عصمه اللَّه تَعَالَى فِي جوارحه

Some of the predecessors mentioned: Whoever is conscious of Allah Almighty in his ideas, Allah will defend him in his limbs.

Source: al-Risālat al-Qushayrīyah 1/330

To recap, the human psyche consists of the coronary heart, spirit, self or ego, and thoughts. The coronary heart is the core-being and the most vital of those components. The spirit is the higher-self that influences the coronary heart to be righteous, replicate divine qualities, and do good deeds. The ego is the lower-self that’s the receptacle of fundamental instincts and tends to comply with its whims. The thoughts is the rational college and receptacle of thought, contemplation, and understanding.

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The believer’s most vital objective in this life is to purify the coronary heart by tapping into the affect of the spirit, in opposition to the affect of the lower-self, which is the weapon of Satan and an enemy to the human being. The thoughts performs a major function in this wrestle, because it accommodates ideas from each the higher-self and lower-self. Through mindfulness abilities and Islamic data, one should be taught to determine and domesticate good ideas from the spirit, whereas ignoring and disengaging evil ideas from the lower-self and Satan.

This esoteric science is complicated to many individuals, even students of Islam, as a result of the 4 phrases – coronary heart, spirit, self, thoughts – are used in on a regular basis speech to seek advice from the composite entire: the human psyche or inner-self. In this sense, they’re all synonymous phrases for the similar factor, however for the goal of non secular growth, understanding the delicate distinctions between them is essential to our success.

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Al-Ghazali writes:

فهذه أربعة معان يطلق عليها الألفاظ الأربعة ومعنى خامس وهي اللطيفة العالمة المدركة من الإنسان والألفاظ الأربعة بجملتها تتوارد عليها … وأكثر العلماء قد التبس عليهم اختلاف هذه الألفاظ وتواردها فتراهم يتكلمون في الخواطر ويقولون هذا خاطر العقل وهذا خاطر الروح وهذا خاطر القلب وهذا خاطر النفس وليس يدري الناظر اختلاف معاني هذه الأسماء

These 4 meanings are utilized to the 4 phrases, and a fifth that means is the delicate, understanding, aware substance of the human being and all 4 phrases correspond to it as an entire… Most of the students obscure them, disagreeing over these phrases and what they correspond with. So you will notice them talking about ideas and saying, ‘This is a thought of the mind. This is a thought of the spirit. This is a thought of the heart. This is a thought of the self,’ and the bystander doesn’t know the completely different meanings of those phrases.

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Source: Iḥyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn 3/4-5

Muslims are in severe want of readability by means of these phrases in regards to the nature of the human soul and the technique of purification as laid down by the Prophets and the righteous predecessors. The solely individuals who succeed in the Hereafter are the believers who come to Allah with pure hearts, achieved by filling the thoughts with ideas from the spirit and disengaging whimsical ideas from the lower-self. We have already misplaced the battle to Satan if we don’t even know that such purification is required or we don’t implement the sensible strategies by which such purification will be actualized.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah is aware of finest.

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