The Sufis by Idries Shah, page 445 (pdf), describes "seven stages of preparation" based on nafs (ego):

  1. Nafs-i-ammara (the depraved, commanding nafs)
  2. Nafs-i-lawwama (the accusing nafs)
  3. Nafs-i-mulhama (the inspirednafs)
  4. Nafs-i-mutmainna (the serene nafs)
  5. Nafs-i-radiyya (the fulfilled nafs)
  6. Nafs-i-mardiyya (the fulfilling nafs)
  7. Nafs-i-safiyya wa kamila (the purified and complete nafs)

This appears to be what Wikipedia is alluding to when it says:

Sufic psychology identifies seven levels of the nafs, which have been identified in the Quran. The process of growth depends on working through these levels. These are: tyrannical self, regretful self, inspired self, serene self, pleased self, pleasing self and the pure self.

Question: Where are the seven levels of the nafs in Sufism mentioned in the Qur'an?

I didn't find it in The Sufis, and I couldn't easily access Wikipedia's other reference Heart, Self and Soul by Robert Frager.

up vote 2 down vote accepted

All these concepts except the last are literally mentioned in the Quran. But although the seventh concept is not literally mentioned, its meaning and significance is present in the Quran.

  1. Nafs-i-ammara (the depraved, commanding nafs) is mentioned in 12:53
  2. Nafs-i-lawwama (accusing or reproaching nafs) is mentioned in 75:2
  3. Nafs-i-mulhama (the inspirednafs) is mentioned in 91:8
  4. Nafs-i-mutmainna (the serene or assured nafs) is mentioned in 89:27
  5. Nafs-i-radiyya (the fulfilled or pleased nafs) is mentioned in 89:28
  6. Nafs-i-mardiyya (the fulfilling or pleasing nafs) is also mentioned in the same.
  7. Nafs-i-safiyya wa kamila (the purified and complete nafs) are not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Quran. But the notion of purified is mentioned in the Verse of Purification however the Arabic word used here is derived from the root t-h-r and is an inflection of adjective tahira whose exact meaning slightly differs from safiyya. One can also argue that the notion of kamila or complete nafs refers to Prophets and saints who reached the high stages of spirituality. There is a Prophetic hadith which suggests this meaning:

From among men many reached perfection, but from women nobody reached perfection except Asiya daughter of Muzahim, wife of the Pharaoh; Maryam (Mary) daughter of Imran; Khadija daughter of Khulaid; and Fatima (the daughter of Prophet himself).

This hadith along many other similar ones is amply quoted in Shia sources. I personally found it in Mizan al-Hikma which is a modern Shia hadith collection. But this is also quoted in Sunni sources, however some Sunni scholars apparently reject the hadith in favor of the other versions in their sources which exclude Khadija and Fatima. But the notion of perfection remains central in all versions.

I'm far away from being deep into Sufism, so maybe I'm wrong but I'm taking the words literally from your post (an-nafs or the soul in Arabic is النفس):

  1. Nafs-i-ammara النفس الأمّارة (the depraved, commanding nafs) (12:53)

    And I do not acquit myself (النفس my nafs). Indeed, the soul (النفس) is a persistent enjoiner (أمّارة) of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful."

The sufi ruling here says: النفس الأمارة بالسوء منك إليك بك
The commanding to sins soul is from you, towards you and with you.
This means (as far as I understood): the commands come from you, they'll have impact on (towards) you and they can only exist (be) with you.

  1. Nafs-i-lawwama النفس اللوامة (the accusing nafs) (75:2)

    And I swear by the reproaching soul (النفس اللوامة) [to the certainty of resurrection].

The sufi ruling here says: النفس اللوامة منك إليك بك
The reproaching soul is from you, towards you and with you.

  1. Nafs-i-mulhama النفس الملهمة (the inspired nafs) (91:8)

    And [by] the soul (نفس) and He who proportioned it (7)
    And inspired (verb ألهم) it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, (8)

This stage seems to be a discussed stage among sufis as it doesn't appear in some sufi references.

  1. Nafs-i-mutmainna النفس المطمئنة (the serene nafs) (89:27)

    [To the righteous it will be said], "O reassured (المطمئنة) soul (النفس),

The sufi ruling here says: النفس المطمئنة منه إليك بك
The serene soul is from HIM, towards you, with you.

  1. Nafs-i-radiyya النفس الراضية (the fulfilled nafs) (89:28)

The sufi ruling here says: (النفس الراضية منه إليه به (الأسماء والصفات
The fulfilled soul is from HIM, towards HIM and with HIM (names and attributes of Allah).

  1. Nafs-i-mardiyya النفس المرضية (the fulfilling nafs) (89:28)

    Return to your Lord, well-pleased (راضية) and pleasing (مرضية) [to Him],

The sufi ruling here says: النفس المرضية منه إليه به
The fulfilling soul is from HIM, towards HIM and with HIM.

  1. Nafs-i-safiyya wa kamila النفس الصافية والكاملة (the purified and complete nafs)

The sufi ruling says: النفس الكاملة منه إليه به
The complete souls is from HIM, towards HIM and with HIM.

You won't find it in one verse (and so far I couldn't find any Sufi source linking it to any special verse), but you'll need to understand the fact that kamal الكمال (completeness) is an attribute of Allah so the more you follow the rulings of Allah and the sunnah of his Prophet and leave aside anything which Allah has prohibited the closer you get to Allah.

Ibn 'Ata' Allah al-Iskandari said:

لا تفرح بالنعمة وافرح بالمنعم بها عليك
(My own translation take it with the necessary care)
Don't be happy about the gift but be happy with the ONE whom has offered it to you.

Imam az-Zarkashi quoted in his al-Burhan that the sufis interpreted the verse (9:123):

O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers ...

as referring to an-nafs! As fighting an-nafs is the most important thing in sufism (that's why there are several stages one could reach with his nafs).

Imam Fakhraddin ar-Razi in his tafsir pointed at the verse (5:83):

And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of what they have recognized of the truth. They say, "Our Lord, we have believed, so register us among the witnesses.

as an example for those whom have a purified soul.

One could understand from fi dhilal al-Quran of Sayyid Qutb that whenever there's an example -in the Quran- quoting good and bad what ever is good is that what a purified soul would follow.

That's why sufis say:

وصفات النفس الكاملة هي: صفات النفس المطمئنة والراضية والمرضية.
(My own translation ...)
The attributes of the complete soul are: the attributes of the serene, fulfilled and fulfilling soul!

Which may be understood that a complete soul can only be one which is all of that at once at any time.

Ibn 'Ata' Allah even presented tree kinds of people (and stages) (My own interpretation) (Arabic source):

After saying:

"إذا كانت عين القلب تنظر أن الله واحد في سنته، فالشريعة تقتضي أن لابد من شكر خليقته"
(My own translation ...Please note that reading Sufi texts is somewhat difficult and therefore interpreting them is even more)
"If the eye of the heart declares (sees) that Allah's sunnah is that HE is unique, then the shari'a orders (or emphasizes on the importance of) to thank his creation!"

  • people who only saw the good things coming from other people
  • people who only saw good things coming from Allah.
  • people who realized that thanking the people is thanking Allah for his gifts.
    (This can be considered as an interpretation of the sunnah, read for example in sunan abi Dawod and Jami' at-Tirmdihi)

Some maybe useful links:

Quotes of ibn 'Ata' Allah.
A commentary from the hikam of ibn 'Ata' Allah.
The debate between ibn 'Ata' Allah and ibn Taymiyah.

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