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How to identify Nafs al-Ammarah?

by Minhaj

Characteristics of Nafs al-Ammarah

Among the characteristics of the commanding self(al-Nafs al-Ammarah) are – Stinginess, Greed, Evil Deeds, covetousness, foolishness, hatred, jealousy, ignorance, laziness, Anger, Backbiting, and Slandering.

Having a single one of these bad character traits is evidence of the Commanding Self(al-Nafs al-Ammarah). A few examples of the attributes of the Commanding Self(Al-Nafs al-Ammarah) from the Holy Quran are presented below:

Verse #1
Whenever a Messenger brought you (the commandments) your (ill-commanding) selves disliked, you adopted arrogance.[Quran Chapter 2:Verse 87]Here arrogance, a prevalent attribute of the Commanding Self (Nafs al-Ammarah) is mentioned. The rejection of the truth is also mentioned to be caused by this level of the lower self (nafs).
 It is further stated :Verse #2And who turns away from the din of Ibrahim (Abraham) except for someone who has ignorance and foolishness?►[Quran Chapter 2:Verse 130]
In this verse, two attributes of the Commanding self(Al-Nafs al-Ammarah) have been mentioned: Ignorance and foolishness.

The Metaphorical forms of Nafs al-Ammarah in Dreams

Each level of lower self (Nafs) can be easily identified by the seeker through dreams. Each of the seven selves (nafs) can be seen in the dreams according to their dominant conditions and their states appearing in distinct forms. Many people, in their dreams, see their own selves (nafs) taking different forms. They do not realize that the form they have seen is in fact the state of their own self (nafs). Some of the forms that refer to the commanding self (al-Nafs al-Ammarah) are Swine, Dog, Elephant, Snake, Donkey, Scorpion, Mouse, Flea, Lice, Sparrow, or any bird.

Seeing any of these in a dream is evidence of the Commanding self(al-Nafs al-Ammarah). In addition to these, seeing the following in a dream is also evidence of this state:
Toilet room, Stable, Alcohol or any other intoxicant, Dirty water, Mud, Standing water such as a pond, Flowing water of black or murky colour.

If any of these are seen, then they are specific qualities of the Commanding Self(Nafs al-Ammarah). These forms inform the individual that they are at the level of the commanding self(al-Nafs al-Ammara).

Interpretation of the Metaphorical forms:

The following are some interpretations of the above Metaphorical forms:

  • To see a Dog in a dream is indicative of anger and rage being a dominant trait.
  • Seeing a pig in a dream is indicative of an unlawful(haram) attribute.
  • Seeing an Elephant in a dream indicates pride and arrogance.
  • Seeing a snake in a dream is a sign of hypocrisy.
  • Seeing Birds, flee or Lice refer to disliked (makruh) things or undesirable habits.
  • Toilets are a sign of being consumed by the material world.
  • Drinking or tasting alcohol in a dream is a sign of a person being engaged in haram acts.
  • Seeing alcohol, but not drinking it refers to unlawful(haram) intentions or thoughts.
  • To see pubs or bars refers to corrupt thoughts.

In the terminology of Tasawwuf, the heart of someone who is dominated by Nafs al-Ammarah is known as the animalistic heart, as the temperament and disposition of such a person are dominated by animalistic qualities. Such a heart receives satanic whispering and negative thoughts. They then develop into a system of belief, and in the end, the satanic whispering leads to doubts. Then, gradually progressing on this path, such a person becomes so engrossed in sin that the person becomes an embodiment of the commanding self. It loses any sense of piety and moderation.

Further Reading: Practical Guide to Spiritual Wayfaring by Shaykh ul Islam Dr. Tahir ul Qadri

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