وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا
wa nafsin wa Maa sawaha
And [by] the Nafs/Conscience and He who proportioned it
Everything Allah took an oath by before had an Al الْ (alif,lam) [i.e. Alal Qamar, al Nahar, al Layl, al Sama’, al Ard) before it, but now there is no Al before Nafs.
A lack of Al (nakirah) tankeer li takhfeem (ta’dheem) – thislack of Al is a climax/peak, the great matter which needed to be discussed.
Some aayaat are like seeds, and you see their fruits through other aayaat/verses.
The beginning aayaat are making us reflect on the universe, and the fruits of reflecting on them will make us understand ourselves.
Nafs – Conscience. (Nafs al-lawaama – reproaching soul – النَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ [mentioned in Surah Qiyamah 75:2], Nafs al mutma’inah – soul at ease/tranquility النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ [mentioned in Surah Fajr 89:27])
Sawaa – taswiyah - take things that are uneven, balance them in a way so they are balanced and organised. I.e. To balance a waying scale.
How amazingly the Nafs is balanced, how remarkable is the One who balanced it.
Our conscience/nafs is what makes us directly remember Allah. The One who gave us this conscience is watching us also.
Your body requires a Balance: This is why there are so much terms used by people throughout history for it; Left and right, yin/yang, the animal side/spiritual human side, good/bad energy etc.
Modern psychology is based on this Personality definition too. One of the biggest debates in modern psychology is; What is the definition of Personality? Allah is telling us in this surah, as we will elaborate below inshaa’ Allah.
The Nafs = not physically touchable. The body however is physical.
al Bicaa’i comments: Allah compares the nafs with the body the same way He compares the sun with its glow.
There is inclination of good and bad inside us.
Al Aloosi; When Allah created us, He created the clay and blew into it the Rooh (soul). Whatever we want in this Earth is created from this Earth; food, drink, other peoples companionship etc. – all these come from the Earth. But there is something within us which is not from this Earth, it is from the command of Allah – that is our our Rooh (soul).
When we feel hungry in our stomach – we want Earthly food.
When we are hungry spiritually – we need food from out of this Earth, we need it directly from Allah – Wahy [revelation].
These two things (Nafs and Rooh) are always in Conflict - just like the Sun and Moon.
So when there is extremes in any of these, there is harm for the human. There should be a balance of spirituality for Allah’s sake, and also channeling our body’s desires in a permissible way.
This is why Allah orders us to keep our spiritual duties, aswell as our worldly duties fulfilled.
وَابْتَغِ فِيمَا آتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَأَحْسِن كَمَا أَحْسَنَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَلَا تَبْغِ الْفَسَادَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُفْسِدِينَBut seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.”
[al Qasas 28:77]
The Qalb (heart) contains many concepts; love, hope, fear, anger, jealousy, joy… All emotions. Even your belief is in your heart.
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ فِيكُمْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ۚ لَوْ يُطِيعُكُمْ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْرِ لَعَنِتُّمْ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ حَبَّبَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيَّنَهُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ وَكَرَّهَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكُفْرَ وَالْفُسُوقَ وَالْعِصْيَانَ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الرَّاشِدُونَ
And know that among you is the Messenger of Allah . If he were to obey you in much of the matter, you would be in difficulty, but Allah has endeared to you the faith and has made it pleasing in your hearts and has made hateful to you disbelief, defiance and disobedience. Those are the [rightly] guided.[al Hujurat 49:7]
The heart is a territory which both the worldly desires and spirituality are trying to win over. A constant struggle for the human Nafs. You need to strive for the balance.
وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا
And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.[al Israa' 17:36]
When we hear and see the truth, we either accept it or reject it. We will accept the truth if our Fitrah (natural disposition) is intact, the more intact it is – the more likely we will accept the message of truth.
The Wahy (revelation) which Allah sends to humans as a guidance is a light. I.e. Allah says about guidance that He sent;
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا التَّوْرَاةَ فِيهَا هُدًى وَنُورٌ
Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light.
[al Ma'idah 5:44]
Our human Fitrah placed within us is also a light from Allah [since it is from outside this world]. Eman is also called light. So when Eman enters the heart, Light/Noor is added to the heart, along with Noor [Light] from the Wahy [Revelation] = Light upon Light.
اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ ۖ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ ۖ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ ۚ نُّورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.
[al Noor 24:35]
So you can imagine the light of guidance being added to a heart on the Fitrah, and in effect – an increase in the guidance.
When the Nafs sins:
An-Nafs al Ammaarah bis-soo‘ [the commanding soul - to be evil] – when the body is being bombarded with Dunya (this world) and is being influenced by Shaytaan [satan]. This is the worst type of Nafs.
When the Nafs goes into either extreme i.e. Of either distancing from Allah, or distancing from his duties in this world – the Nafs starts to feel bad and guilty [known as Nafs al Lawaamah - blaming (itself) nafs].
Then it does tawba/repentance, mends its ways and gains tranquility – becoming the Nafs al Mutma’inah(tranquil Nafs). The conscience at ease.
فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا
And inspired it [with discernment/understanding of] its wickednessand its righteousness,
fa alhama ha fujooraha wa taqwaha
Ilham is a form of inspiration which is placed in the heart – which is more firmer than fact. (i.e. People call it a gutfeeling).
Wahy can be used more generally for humans, animals (i.e. The bee etc [Surah Nahl 16:68]). Whereas Ilham is more specific for creatures with an Intellect – so they are firm about something. And Allah is telling us that He placed Ilham inside the humans Nafs.
Fujoora ha: – Fajr - to tear through a sanctity or authority.
Faajir = someone who is extremely rebellious and tears through the sanctity. (I.e. A war occurred during the youth of Allah’s Messenger in the Masjid al Haram in Makkah, and it was called the battle of the Fujaar because the people who started it did not care about the sanctity of the place where they were fighting and spilling the peoples blood. They TORE through the sanctity of Makkah.)
So the Fujoor in this ayah is referring to Allah inspiring the Nafs to be aware of the evil potential it has for itself (fujoora HA). It has been programmed to know that it can do this, but if it does it – the Nafs knows that this is wrong (Guilty conscience).
عـن النبي صلى الله عـليه وسلم قـال : ( الـبـر حـسـن الـخلق والإثـم ما حـاك في نـفـسـك وكـرهـت أن يـطـلع عــلـيـه الـنـاس ). رواه مسلم [ رقم : 2553 ].
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
Righteousness is in good character, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in your soul, and which you dislike people finding out about. [Sahih Muslim]
Taqwa ha: taqwa is the act of guarding yourself.
The nafs has been programmed to know that it should guard itself. From evil acts – since they are harmful for it, but also to guard itself from sins – since they bring about Allah’s punishment.
That guilty conscience is what prevents you from doing evil.
The blaming nafs (al-lawaama) is protecting itself from;
1 - Becoming bad.2 - Allah’s punishment.
The self is greedy, it has the urge to protect itself from any harm coming to it.
Ash-Shawkani: He made the human thoroughly aware of the 2 states; Making the human realise the beauty of taqwa and the ugliness of sins.
Mujahid; He made him realise the path of evil. So if someone does an evil, they will realise that it leads to another evil. I.e. You do a sin, then you need to cover it up by lying, which leads to more lying and sinning etc. etc.
This is why Allah says;
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ادْخُلُوا فِي السِّلْمِ كَافَّةً وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌO you who have believed, enter into Islam completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. [al Baqarah 2:208]
He said this because this brings about the most safety for the Nafs, from the harm of this life, and the punishment of the next.
al Farraa’: He made the Nafs know its worst evil (Fujoor), and its best protection (taqwa). So its not just about good [khayr] and evil [sharr], its about the Nafs wanting to benefit itself.
إِنْ أَحْسَنتُمْ أَحْسَنتُمْ لِأَنفُسِكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ أَسَأْتُمْ فَلَهَا“If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, [you do it] to yourselves.”
[al Israa' 17:7]
In the previous Surah Balad, Allah gives a long description of blessings He has given us.
أَلَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ عَيْنَيْنِ وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ Have We not made for him two eyes? And a tongue and two lips? [Balad 90:9-10]
If your eyes, lips are used for the right purpose – they will benefit you. If they are not, they will harm you.
And have shown him the two ways? [Balad 90:10]
We understand from the above Aayaat that Najadayn [the two paths] are the Nafs‘s = fujooraha [its evil] wa taqwaha [its protection].