An-Nafs al-Lawamma: The Reproachable Nafs
The Second Station
“I swear by the day of Arising! And I swear by the reproachful soul!” (75:1-2)
This is the study of the nafs al-lawamma, showing its walking, its world, its place, its states, its source of guidance, its attributes, and the course of treatment to be released from it and to ascend beyond it to the third station in which the soul (nafs) becomes inspired.
The walking of the nafs al-lawamma is for Allah; its world is the world of al-barzakh; its place is the heart; its slave is love; its source (warid) or leader is the way (at-tariqa); its attributes are: reproachfulness, arrogance, self-satisfaction, abandonment of the company of people because of an objection to creation, hidden pride, the love of appetites, and the love of a high position.
The nafs still has traces of the attributes of the nafs al-amarra, but it has the discrimination of knowing the truth as truth and seeing falsity as false. It knows that these attributes are ugly but is not free of them. It has a desire to struggle and to be compliant with the shari'a. It has good action in prayer, fasting, and charity, but these good acts are mixed with pride. The person in this station, even though he hides his good actions, likes to be praised for them and cannot totally remove this desire from his heart.
The Messenger of Allah said, “All people except those who know will perish, and all those who know except men of deeds will perish, and all men of deeds except the sincere will perish.” Then he added, “And all the sincere ones a in grave danger.”
This is because the sincere ones still want others to know of their sincerity, and this is the hidden pride. These people perform their good actions for people and not for Allah, and this is a hidden sin. Know that if you have these attributes, you are in the second station and know that your nafs are reproachful (al-lawamma), and that it is a dangerous station for the reasons we have explained.
So if you say that this contradicts the saying of the Prophet, “Had the mu'minin entered a lizard's hole (al-juhr), Allah would have sent someone to harm him,” and his saying, “The dunya is the prison of the mu'min,” I would say to you that these hadith refer to the righteouspeople who have some fear (awe) of Allah, except that they have not freed themselves from the impurities of the nafs, and so they are not free from the toil of the dunya. For that reason Allah has promised them reward in the Hereafter (al-akhira). As for those very few who are brought near (al-muqarrabun)(56:11;83:21), by what would they be hurt or imprisoned? The nearest ones reach the seventh state avoiding this state of danger. Salvation from danger comes by vanishing. They enter into the presence of Allah Who grants them His grace. This is the difference between the righteous and the nearest, between the toil of the former and the comfort of the latter. To illustrate their condition, we say they are like a tree whose branches bear poisonous fruit. The righteous begin to remove the fruit and the branches, whereas the nearest work to uproot the tree altogether. So, it is the nearest whose work in fruitful. They seek the fana' in themselves and survival in their Lord.
So my beloved, if you wish to be one of them, to be free of all pain, and to have rest at all times, then walk their way and continue to walk from station to station until you arrive at the seventh station, which is al-nafs al-kamala. There you will see what will amaze you. At every station you will see what pleases you and what inspires you to keep walking and to ascend the stations through the struggle (al-mujahada) with the nafs. You will busy yourself with the names. In every station there is a particular name devoted to that maqam, and the busier you are with your Lord and His attributes, the closer you get.
If you become lazy, you have only yourself to blame. You need to engage in the struggle with the nafs, and to leave your old habits, which are so many that they cannot be counted, but the path has well established principles. You need to acquire at least six of them: reducing food, reducing sleep, reducing talk, keeping away from sins, engaging in adh-dhikr, and reflection.
These six practices are more important than anything else. If the seeker engages in them with sincerity, they help him to leave old habits. But what is required in these practices is a middle way between excess and lack. So it is said to reduce your food; it is not said to stop eating. Do not eat unless you are hungry and do not eat until you are full. It is useful to leave the habit of eating a required lunch and dinner. The Messenger of Allah said, “We are people who do not eat unless we are hungry, and if we eat we do not fill up.” He also said, “There is nothing worse that is filled by humans than the filling of the stomach. And if you need to put something into it, then know one third is for food, one third is for drink, and one third is for breath (air).” The seeker takes on this practice to turn his nafs toward the Haqq. But he needs to give himself rest because changes in temperament corrupt states and stations. For example, if the seeker feels sick, then he needs to relax in his struggle with his nafs and engage himself in taking care of him temperament. After returning to health, he can re-engage in his struggle with his nafs, but with caution.
In this second maqam, you engage in adh-dhikr of Allah. Do remembrance in abundance- standing, sitting, and on your side, in the night, in the day, and at specified times when you sit facing the Qibla. Repeat the name with strength and with raising your voice, and do not tilt yourself to the right or the left. Put a stress on the first A, and make the ah quiet, and elongate the name-ALLLah, and do not do it fast. Know that in this station, you have many thoughts, many whisperings, and many ideas, especially if you do the dhikr with a middle voice. If you do it with a strong voice then the thoughts will be quieter.
Assign yourself times when you sit facing the Qibla.
This name is a fire that burns all thoughts and whisperings. Be concerned to preoccupy yourself with the dhikr, and do not pay attention to the thoughts. You cannot quickly free yourself from all thoughts because the mirror of your heart is still facing creation. Your heart is full of the pictures of creation concerned with actions, beauties, ugliness, and movement. These pictures cannot be removed until you turn your back to all of creation. Then there is no trace of all the pictures of creation and you do not hear their words. As long as you do not disengage, you will find these thoughts and whisperings in your heart, and they will trouble you. Know that creation will veil you from the truth. If you are truly thirsty for arrival, then leave creation alone and say, “I am traveling to my Lord Who will guide me.”
Know that this path is a serious path and a path of struggle. Whoever is serious and struggles will achieve everything that he desires and more. Whoever is lazy and negligent will have no arrival because of the many obstacles. The greatest obstacles are relying on creation, leaning toward it, and sitting with others. Whoever does not cut off these obstacles does not have arrival because what is sought is contrary to what the people of adh-dunya are engaged in with their words and in their hearts. So if you wish to reach the highest station, leave creation completely and forget everything that is an obstacle to you, and busy yourself with your Lord. Then you will become familiar with the Haqq and you will see what amazes you, Allah willing.
If you do not follow these instructions, you will spend your time in toil and tiredness and will not reach your desire. So be serious in removing all traces of the nafs al-amarra whenever in manifest pride, envy, enmity, and bad opinion of the creation. You cannot be free of all these things unless you avoid the dunya and cut yourself off from it outwardly and inwardly. In this maqam you are not bound to the order to command to good and to prohibit evil, because this command can only be exercised with gentleness and modesty, and in this station you do not possess these qualities.
The Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever commands to good, let him command with goodness,” meaning gentleness. At this stage the most important thing is to release yourself from destruction and to purify your heart from the evils that obstruct your walking and prevent you from witnessing the Haqq. Because the heart is the place of seeing the Haqq, the purification of the heart becomes obligatory and necessary. Let your prayer be, “O Disposer of hearts, turn my heart to Your obedience.” It is good to say this prayer a sunrise and sunset. Ask Allah to turn your heart from forgetfulness to remembrance, from laughter to weeping, from fear to security, and from contraction to expansion. The summation of all these prayers is to ask to be put on the straight path.
In this station you will understand the secret of the Prophet's saying, “The hearts of the slaves are between the two fingers of the Merciful.” Allah is the provider. He alone can make you oblivious to the pain of struggle, and He can increase your desire to walk the path, and He can make you shun everything other than Allah. This is possible if you do what you have just been told. If you do not, you will feel the tiredness and toil.
If you think that you have received the secret of these works without struggle, then you know that this is a false claim from the nafs because that nafs always make claims of perfection and completion. Know that completion is only witnessed after struggle with the nafs. So struggle with your nafs and reveal the hidden jewels. Do not be deceived by the claims of the tongue. Whoever claims to have what he does not have will be put to the test. So test your nafs; do not believe your nafs. Be the one who takes the nafs into account every time your nafs so what is contrary to the tariqa. So refute the nafs and inform your shaykh. Do not conceal any of its ugly qualities from him because whenever you receive the secrets from this tariqa, you will benefit.
You need to be watchful of any traces of arrogance, confusion, and making false claims. Be sincere and truthful in your seeking and in your struggle with the nafs (al-mujahada), and in this way perceive the wonders and the secrets of the heart. This is the doorway to the imaginal world (al-mithal), which is a world different from the one you are in now. This world is only known to those in the station of the heart, which is at the end of the second station (an-nafs al-lawamma).
This is the first station (an-nafs al-lawamma) of those who are brought or drawn near. The traveler (as-salik) begins to perceive what cannot be perceived by the senses. This is because the heart of the believer is the throne of Allah and the house of Allah, meaning that it is the place where the secrets of Allah are kept. So follow the shari'a which is al-Qur'an and al-hadith of the Prophet, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him. Take on the qualities of the tariqa, which are the actions of the Prophet-extreme hunger, little sleep, and silence. If the Messenger of Allah spoke, he only spoke of good things. He was silent much of the time. He laughed little. So follow his form and his states and act on them. If you do this, springs of wisdom will gush forth from your heart expressing themselves by your tongue. You will be a traveler walking the path of those who are near, which will confirm your traveling to the presence of al-jabbar.
One of the first stopping places on this journey in the world of the mithal is your encounter with celestial bodies, which are pictures or forms midway between the coarseness of the body and the subtlety of the spirit. What you see will strengthen your himma for traveling, increase your yearning, kindle the fire of the love in your heart, and cut you off from all appetites, desires, and passions of the nafs. But know that entrance into the world of al-mithal is only for the travelers (as-salik). It is a state called the inevitable event (al-waqi'a), intermediate between wakefulness and sleep. It is important that you are aware of this place and time, and that you know of the existence of this intermediary space. If you do not have an awareness of this state, then you sleep is only sleep and is of no consequence.
In the beginning the travelers are overcome by sleep. Later they are more wakeful, so that when they see spiritual bodies, they think they see them in a waking state. In reality they see them in this inner space. It is in this state that Jibra'il came to the companions of the Prophet in the form of an Arab carrying the spirit of the Prophet.
It is important to purify the nafs and the heart. The sign that the heart has been purified is its receptivity to inspiration and divine knowledge, and its agreement with the Qur'an and the sunnah. Evidence for the purification of the nafs comes when it is free from anger, envy, pride, and hatred of some parts while inclined toward other parts of creation. The right state is when all creation is equal in your sight; to love everyone, but not so excessively that is cuts you off from the Haqq, nor to hate anyone inwardly so that it occupies you from the remembrance of the Haqq. It is important in this station for the salik to cut off his appetites for food and clothing. If you see that you have a preference for some foods and not for others, or you have a preference in what you wear, then you need to struggle with your self to avoid excess and negligence by these two worldly goods. This is the first step toward the nafs al-kamala because the perfection (al-kamala) is not arrived at unless you wean yourself from the appetite for food and clothing. If you find that you still have these appetites, know that you are not on the path toward the Haqq, the path of those who are brought near. If this claim to be on the path is made while these appetites persist, know that this is the claim of the shaitan. Those who do not stop these habits will fall into them and stop traveling. If you want arrival, then disconnect from everything that stops you form reaching your Beloved. Avoid everything other than Allah. Do not sit with anyone, even if he claims to be al-Khidr, if you see him preoccupied with creation in his actions and if you do not see him engaged in the actions of the people of traveling, which is the only way to reach Allah.
Know that the heart has a side facing the outward world which is under the governance of the five senses, and it does not know anything of this outside world except through these senses. The heart also has a side facing the unseen world which is the world of the malakut. Whenever you turn toward the seen world with your five senses, you turn away from the unseen world. In the beginning you cannot be turned to both sides at the same time. Whenever you turn toward one side, the other becomes absent, and there is a big difference between the two worlds. The seen world is extremely far away form the presence of the Haqq. If the heart turns to the seen world and leaves the unseen world, it becomes like an animal. This is why a person becomes captive to his appetites, to anger, to engaging in sleep and in what does not concern him, and in argumentation and confrontation without concern for the ending of his affairs. But if he turns to the unseen world by following the orders, leaving the prohibited, leaving everything that does not concern him, leaving excess talk, excess sleep and excess eating, then he takes on the angelic attributes. Anger and appetite come under his command, and he becomes an insan al-kamal worthy of the trust.
Know that anger and appetites are like rust. Just as a mirror cannot receive images if it is covered with darkness, the ruh cannot receive the tajalli if it is covered with anger and appetite, unless these two qualities are governed by the directives of the shari'a.
The deficiencies of the nafs are many. Only the sincere among the travelers can walk through them. This is through al-mujahada, through seeking the aid of Allah in opposing the shaitan and the resistance of humankind and the jinn. Everyone in existence seeks to stop the traveler from reaching his Lord out of envy and jealously, because they know that whoever crosses this path is given sovereignty over them!
Know that envy only hurts the one who exercises it. The traveler should not pay any attention to envy, to those who are envious, nor fear envy. This is possible when the traveler knows that Allah is closer to him than anything else, and knows that he does not move a foot except by the will and the power of Allah. He holds onto the knowledge that Allah knows everything in the heavens and on earth, and that Allah ahs a greater mercy toward him than any mother is capable of having for her child. Only good comes from Allah; evil is only in the outward of things. If you were to look inward, you would know that everything is good. What is called evil is simply what does not agree or accord with the nature of people. Goodness is connected to the great essence, which is perceived only through the cleaning of the heart, which becomes a witnessing through the cleaning of the heart, which becomes a witnessing through tasting.
If you know this, then you know four things: there is nothing that can oppose the power of Allah; Allah has knowledge of everything; Allah is very tender and the Most Merciful; and all actions of Allah are good.
Whoever knows these matters is not afraid of the plottings of the envious and has no fear of people or of shaitan. So, O traveler, hold onto these four knowings, contemplate their meanings, be truthful in your turning to Allah, and do not turn to anything that does not concern you. When you truly know that Allah has power over everything, this increases your himma in turning to Him, in your prayer to Him and in your confidence in His answering you. Any petition that is made in this state is never denied.
As for your realization that He has knowledge of everything, that He is gentle and merciful, and that all His actions are good, these are the qualities or the knowledge that establishes you in the station on reliance on Allah, acceptance of Allah, yearning for Allah, love of Allah, and other such stations and states, and that help you in your ascension to the third maqam, which is called the secure and inspired station (al-maqam al-mulhama). From that you ascend to the complete rest and satisfaction station (an-nafs al-mutma'inna), then to the well-pleased station (an-nafs ar-radiyya), then to the well-pleasing station (an-nafs al-mardiyya), and then to the perfect station (an-nafs al-kamala).
Know that it is a custom of Allah that the precondition for ascension form the second to the third station happens only at the hand of the gnostic traveler who has knowledge of the stations and the states of the way. Allah does break with customs. It is possible that one can ascend if he has understanding and intelligence, especially if he studies the teachings in the books. Then Allah will give him the helping hand of one of the knowers. Progression from the third to the fourth maqam can only happen with the perfect traveler, who is not necessarily the perfect gnostic. You do not say about anyone that he is the perfect traveler unless he has perfected the fourth station where the nafs is called al-mutma'inna. Progression to the forth station is only possible with the perfect one (al-kamala) because the third station is one of the most difficult and one of the most dangerous stations. It combines both good and evil, benefit and harm. It is easy to confuse the Haqq with what is false and disbelief with realization, except for those whose worship and whose following of the shari'a has become customary, who have a noble disposition of the nafs, who are generous, who are correct in their perception of the revelation, and who see the truth as truth and falsity as false. It will become clear how dangerous this third maqam is.
As for the ascension from the fourth to the fifth and then on to the sixth and seventh, except for a few, the traveler does not need the hand of the guide because when Allah lights up the light in the heart form the light of the Perfected One, then the traveler sees all the perfections, and all he needs is the himma to reach them. He does not need the guide so much. How you know that the fourth station is al-kamil even through it is of the lower rank of perfection.