The Attributes and Names of the Ranks and Stations of the Nafs in its Striving and Elevation
A Translation of a Classic Text by Mahmoud Mostafa
The Quran mentions five levels for the human soul. The basic level is the one in which we are born which is called the Blaming Self (Nafs Al Lawwama). If it is neglected and left to its whims and desires it will descend to the station of the Commanding Self (Nafs Al Ammara). And if it is developed and cared for through effort and resistance to its desires it will, God willing, ascend to the highest levels of closeness, contentment, and love for Allah and His Prophet. These higher levels are three, the first one above the Blaming Self is the Secure Self (Nafs Al Muttma'ina), followed by the Content Self (Nafs Al Radiyah), and finally to the Gratified Self (Nafs Al Mardiyyah) and that is the self that reaches its natural place and station which is "…the most beautiful station."
The Gnostics (Arifun) have detailed and explained this matter and made it easy for the Muslim to know it and act upon it thus making immunity and remedy easy. They made the levels seven in number within the scope of the five mentioned in the Quran.
1. The Commanding Self (Nafs Al Ammara).
The remembrance that is appropriate for its treatment is La Illah Illa Allah (There is no god except God). It is the lowest level of the self and the worst. In it is found extreme desire and lust for immortality and sovereignty. Thus it is attached to the worst of characteristics from which we have been warned by Allah and His Prophet. For example self-admiration, arrogance and pride, hardness of the heart, oppression of creatures, love for exposing the faults of others, lying, gossip, back-biting, envy, jealousy, criticism, undeserved self-praise, bitterness, attachment to what belongs to others even if it possesses what is better, lack of contentment, constant complaining, lack of gratitude, blindness to its blessings, wishing for increase without effort, extreme selfishness, greed and covetousness that knows no limit, love of control, and love of self and its desires, hatred for those who criticize it even if it is for its own good and love for those who praise it even if it is in hypocrisy, rejection of advice and counsel, and only talking about itself.
This Commanding Self is generally divided into two levels:
The Animal Self (Nafs Al Hayawaniyyah); this is the self that runs after sensual desires and material possessions without regard for right or wrong, justice or inequity, lawful or unlawful. It is drowned in the pleasures of possessions, sex, and adornments. It is characterized by lewdness, evil, and lack of humanity. It abhors religion and loves itself selfishly. It knows neither fullness, nor humility, nor thankfulness, nor honor, nor manners.
The Satanic Self (Nafs Al Iblissiyyah); is even lower than the Animal Self because its love for itself has taken it to the stage where it competes with Allah in His divinity and lordship. "I am your lord supreme…" as Pharaoh proclaimed, and "I am better than him…" as Iblis contended.
The Commanding Self is the one with the ill heart. If the heart is not healed, the nafs continues in its ways until the heart is blinded and then it is finally sealed.
The root of this level of the self is that it's convinced that it is perfect and that others are flawed and that everyone will die but it will remain immortal. It got its name because of its constant demands and its numerous calls to satisfy its desires. So it demands a thing and before it attains it, it demands another thing and so on without end. The human in this state is the friend and beloved of Satan and the enemy of the Merciful. "Except those upon whom Allah shows mercy."