Murid: Ya Shaykh, if everything is from Allah, where is nafs from and where in history did nafs originate?
Shaykh Taner: Allah said to the angels, “When I blow my Spirit into him, I want you prostrate to him.” And that is when the nafs was originated.
Anyway, so nafs comes from nafas, breath, air. Air is, you know, not solid. That is why desires are from — it is all from Allah. It comes from nafas. It is Allah Who gives all these desires in your chest. Everything is created from one of Allah’s names. Like Satan is created from Qahhar. Allah’s qahr [wrath]. And then nafs is created from air. Nafas. What is nafas, honey? Breath.
Murid: No, you said created from one of the Names of Allah. So I was waiting for a name.
Shaykh Taner: The name is air. Oxygen.
Murid: That is not the name of Allah.
Shaykh Taner: Why not? Anything can be name of Allah. All beautiful names belong to Allah. It is not limited to 99 Names. Is Allah limited to 99 Names?
Okay. So nafs is from air and is created as a human being, created as opposite of Allah. Allah put this as opposite of Him. So at least, it should have Khaliq and Musawwir in it, right? Khaliq and Musawwir and Bari.
Murid: What do you mean as opposite of Allah? Because He is solid?
Shaykh Taner: Allah is good, nafs is bad, Allah is kind, nafs is not, Allah is generous, nafs is miser.
Murid: But isn’t nafs can be either of those? Depending on what you make of it?
Shaykh Taner: It can be tamed?
Murid: Yes. It has the potential to have both so it depends on us.
Shaykh Taner: It does not have potential of both. It only objects. He wants to be god, nafs wants. Nafs does not want to recognize Allah, he wants to be god.
Murid: So somebody is good but–
Shaykh Taner: Excuse me! Nobody is good! Allah is good. What does Allah say? “All good is from me, all bad is from you.” So if you see something good in somebody, that is not their goodness, that is Allah’s goodness. The only thing the nafs is supposed to do is:
get out of the way.
If you can get your nafs, voice of your nafs, to shut up, like the dog that barks, if you can put a muzzle, that is what you have to do. And you adorn yourself with Allah’s attributes. When you do this, then it is not you who is good and this, it is Allah Who is good.
For example, if you put this nice cologne or perfume on you. Okay, the smell comes from you but is it you? Is it you?! Especially when you get older, you keep adding more and more, piles of it. The jewelry gets bigger and bigger. It is a smart thing to do because then you want to pull the attention upon yourself with the jewelry. They look at your jewelry “I like your jewelry.” “Oh thank you!”
It is the stone that is good. Not you, you are ugly! Old! But if you are a Sufi, you are always beautiful. Why? Because Allah’s Light through you — Women! Do not be afraid! Do zikr and you will always stay beautiful because Allah’s beauty will shine through you. But know that it is Allah’s beauty. That is why we have to pass it along to Allah. Get out of the way.
When your Rab [Lord] said to the angels, “I am going to create a mortal human out of clay, and when I have shaped (Adam) and breathed into him of My Ruh [Spirit; Life Energy], then fall down before him in sajda [prostration].” Then the angels fell down in sajda, all of them together (Sad:71-73)
Whatever good comes to you, it is from Allah. Whatever evil befalls you, it is from your nafs [ego]. We have sent you (O Muhammad) as a Messenger for humanity, and Allah is sufficient as Witness. (Al Nisa:79)
Fi’il-i Muhammad: the example shown in Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) daily actions of how human beings should live in accordance with Allah’s wishes; Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) implementation of sharia; tariqa
Murid: Sufi student; the one who surrenders their will and power to Allah.
nafs: lit., breath; self; person; egoistic or animalistic nature; personal life
Rab: Lord; Master; Sustainer; Cherisher
ruh: spirit; essential life energy; soul
sajda: prostration; acknowledgement of Allah’s sovereignty
sharia: proper behavior; commandment; law; divine law; the body of Islamic religious canons; injunctions attributed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) regarding proper behavior for Musl
Shaykh: Commonly used in the Middle East as an honorific title, to signify elder, teacher, tribal leader; authorized teacher of tasawwuf.
tariqa: path; Sufi order
tasawwuf: the system of spiritual cleansing known in the West as Sufism
zikr: remembrance; recognition; repeated remembrance with contemplation; mentioning Allah’s name repeatedly with intention, contemplation, glorification or supplication; reminder; the practice of repeating the names of Allah; litany of remembrance
Al Bari – The Shaper
Al Khaliq – The Creator
Al Musawwir – The Detailer
Al Qahhar – The Overpowering One
This is an edited excerpt of a Sohbet given on May 10, 2008 by Murshid Shaykh Taner Vargonen Ansari and published in September, 2023. The translation of the Qur’an verses are also from Murshid Shaykh Taner Vargonen Ansari.
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Love, peace and togetherness in goodness
Ya Wadud Ya Salaam Ya Jami Ya Nafi