By Anum Ali
The Nafs (an Arabic word) of a person; one’s ego, self, psyche or soul, is one’s greatest challenge. Surprisingly, a person may not be difficult to the world but may be a problem child to oneself. Allah – the Glorified and Exalted has created Man as 2 components; the inward existence is the Nafs which is unrefined and of the lowest rank when a person is born. And an outward existence which is the blanket of flesh and bones – the beautified aesthetics that initially conceal the low ranks of the Nafs. As a new dimension to the HH Self Esteem Series let us relate to how mastering one’s Nafs contributes to high self esteem i.e if you lack self esteem you have a glitch in your Nafs system!
Islam elaborates that each human being’s nafs provokes evil. Remember how Satan pledged when he was expelled from Jannah that he would forever adulterate people’s faith? Guess what’s his secret for success? He works through the nafs – the most vulnerable of all human assets. And unless we have a strong firewall ready to counter his attacks, he would spread like virus into our souls and corrupt our self. This is exactly how our self-esteem shatters too. Once enticed to commit evil, do the obvious wrong the others are doing, we stop respecting our self because we feel ourselves to be inferior in some way.
For example, unless a sister has a strong faith and a logical defense established within her psychology, she would immediately feel inferior in her Hijab and would chuck it off when Satan entices her to become part of the glamor and exhibition. The reason she gives in is because through her vulnerable psyche in the absence of strong faith, Satan succeeds in shattering her self-esteem. Initially, everyone is at the base stage of the psyche i.e. Nafs-i-ammara (the inciting nafs) which lures you into evil doings. This is Satan’s way of acting. He acts through the Nafs-i-ammara.
Sisters have been specially forewarned by Prophet Mohammad (sallalahu alehe wa’alehi wasallam) about their weakness of the nafs. The female nafs is the most vulnerable and that’s the reason she would become fuel to hellfire. Feminists react to this statement. But I gave it a thought. We sisters are more easily lured into gossiping, backbiting, seeking men’s attention, and etc. ASTAGHFIRULLAH. May Allah forgive the sins and give everyone a right direction. For the same reason, sisters have the most self-esteem issues.
Think for a while about the kinds of things that we sisters get into thinking about. This is the Satan working through our nafs-e-ammara (the inciting nafs) and poisoning our self-esteem.
“If I tighten the clothes a little bit extra curvy figure might win me a good man.” – this sister feels inferior in her Jilbab (the loose and covered dress).
“I should mingle around and go out with men more; after all, that’s how I’d be successful in today’s male dominated society.” – this sister feels inferior in her shell of feminism which is naturally designed to be soft and delicate.
To protect ourselves from feeling down in the dumps like that due to the exaggerated and pompous standards of society, we’ve got to take our weak psyche by the horns and train it. Believe me, an unrefined nafs is like a raging bull; ridden by Satan, which would destroy everything and everyone around it and in the end die of hurting itself as well. Our aim should be to progress from the stage of nafs-i-ammara; gradually, to the accusing psyche (nafs-i-lawwama) where you snap out of self-denial and boldly confront your ego; your submissive nature to Satan, and struggle towards perfection.
When you are ruled by the nafs-i-ammara you’re a vulnerable human being with a billion self-esteem issues. You may be uncomfortable with who you are and what you look like or what you think and do. Sometimes, self-esteem problems drive a person to breach Islamic limitations! They may not don the Hijab and submit to the glitz and glam, may dress without bothering about the satar (areas to be covered). Satan always uses the most lingering of our complexes as the biggest trick up his sleeves. You may become tempted to follow the footsteps of misguided people because they make them sound so “in” and may make you sound so conservative! Subliminal messages from the society may develop feelings of insecurity at times. Nafs-i-Ammara basically knows no reason!
So how exactly does nafs-i-lawwama (the self-accusing nafs) spring into action to overthrow Satan? It always takes a miracle – take it from me. Either you learn from a mishap or it is a conscious thought process that miraculously begins in your heart and convinces your mind. When you take a step towards Allah He takes a 100 steps towards you and closeness to Him would boost self-esteem! Self-esteem issues would be history!
Next, what happens is, that you corner from Satan’s prompts but the world continues to be a distraction for you. You are aware of your weakenesses but you maintain your self-esteem and do not let the weaknesses overshadow your life. You know your targets and you have a direction to follow! However, despite being a very proactive stage, it has its shortcomings. Since you are not entirely transformed and your heart still is not a 100% purified, you tend to indulge in the minor sins. These can be materialism, backbiting, glamorizing the Hijab, being lazy in your Salaah.
How can the ultimate peak of self-esteem be reached? Ah! That, dear sisters, would happen when you become the ultimate ideal Muslimahs and achieve a state of your soul called the peaceful nafs (nafs-i-mutma’inna). This is the stage of ultimate tranquility that has been attained by prophets and auwliyaa (people who became very close to Allah and attained His friendship). Materialism – the root of self-esteem issues – is completely relieved and all worldly problems appear to be minor grains of sands since you rest them with Allah.
I do not want you to get self-esteem issues because of the difficult struggle to the way of attaining this blissful state. The key is to not to rush yourself and do not feel inferior to those who have excelled in being better people of God but to be a “work in progress” and struggle towards excellence.
It is for this very reason that there are transition stages that you need to go through. First, you need to cast the faults of the past and the fears of the future into oblivion. And rest your case with Allah. Believe that everything would be for the greater good. This is the nafs-i-radiyya where you are in complete submission to Allah’s will. You would feel your esteem get a boost of energy. You would be happy with who you are. Next, strive towards the pleasing nafs (nafs-i-mardiyya) whereby you do the ultimate good and nothing else to people. When you do good, you hear good from them and it instantly boosts your self-esteem.
There is no deal made in Allah’s way that registers a loss. It is a 100% profit investment. Struggle with your ego, your psyche, your self is the greater Jihad (holy struggle) i.e. Jihad-e-Akbar as told by Prophet Mohammad (saww). It includes defeating the 7 evils of the nafs i.e. false pride, greed, envy, lust, backbiting, stinginess, and malice.
Ask yourself these questions and decide your course of action:
Which level is your nafs at?
Which evils do you find in your nafs?
Are you up for overthrowing Satan off from riding your nafs?
Are you in for become the perfect Muslim woman?
Then let’s train that BULL (the nafs-i-ammara – evil nafs) the Devil rides.
I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)