In Islam there is the idea of the nafs;

And We have already created man and know what his nafs whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein

Quran : Qaf 50 16

Is this similar to the concept of the ego? Is it about tempering ambition?

  • I've come across two definitions of nafs, one as you say which is ego and the other is disposition. But I feel that it is more about desires, can one overcome their nafs (desires)?
    – Abu Nooh
    Jun 10 '14 at 10:34
  • @nooh: I am thirsty, I desire water; I don't see anything wrong with that desire; I see an old woman who is a mean but rich landlady, my family is poor; I desire to murder her and take her money; there is a great deal wrong with this (this is the plot of Dostoyevskys *Crime & Punnishment); some desires surely are worth over-coming - but judgement is neccessary; for some desires are natural and it can't be correct to deny them. Jun 10 '14 at 13:24
  • @nooh: what do you mean by disposition? Jun 10 '14 at 13:24
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    Philosophically nafs can be vaguely defined as one's self, the most central part of human existence (consciousness) which governs all other aspects. Nafs in Islamic wisdom, though, can be influenced by various forces: lust, love, anger, illusion and reason (knowledge); and as such be categorized into various types which can also be viewed as different stages of ts development. The most famous categorization is that of the Holy Quran which you can read on this wikipage. It also includes an additional categorization by an Islamic scholar.
    – infatuated
    Jun 10 '14 at 14:33
  • @infatuated: Thanks - I found that very useful; do you who the Islamic scholar is? Jun 10 '14 at 14:47

Nafs basically means 5 senses , but in this context it means Desires

God Created 3 creatures Farishtey ( Angels ) : who have no control over NAFS and completely fulfil God guidelines and orders

Human : human have been created with 'Nafs' , and thus given the opportunity to desire and decide things on his own , we can call it half Nafs

Jinh : I am forgetting some stuff about Jinh in this sense , will try to update it later .

  • Are there any texts that you can recommend about this? Jan 17 '15 at 9:49

With a modern take on the philosophy, we can recognize nafs as the collective container of unconscious and sub-conscious desires of the a person. This is quite near the Freudian concept and is quite identical in case of its influence on a human's actions, but differs on the concept of its driving force. Freud said that these desires were natural part of human due to which a human cannot be trusted. Islam says that this container is manipulated by Satan through waswasa i.e. by binding these desires with bad acts even though there's no relation or even a contradiction between the two, which is why whenever you ponder upon the source of your desire, you're lost. This is exactly why Jihad-al-Nafs is declared as the greatest Jihad.

Also research seven states of nafs.


One definition of "Nafs" is that, it is the human soul when it is put in human body. A human soul can exist without a container. When it is constrained inside a human body, it is called "Nafs".

The definition is based on where Allah has used the words "rooh" and "nafs" in Quran.

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