Allah descends at sunset on that night to the lowest heaven and says: ‘Is there no one who will ask Me for forgiveness, that I may forgive him? Is there no one who will ask Me for provision so that I may provide for him? Is there no one who is afflicted by trouble, that I may relieve him?’ And so on, until dawn comes.’” – Sunan Ibn Majah
Self-love, self-care, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-awareness…these are just some of the ‘self-’ words I read and hear about often.
Whether it’s through conversations with family and friends or through social media, an article or a podcast, there is a lot of emphasis on ‘the self’.
Growing up, I didn’t quite understand the full meaning of some of these words. The idea of the self almost conjured up this image of serving only oneself and the ego. My understanding of Islam was that as Muslims, we should step away from this self-serving notion that life is about ‘me, myself and I’. Allah SWT enlightens us about the ‘Nafs’ or self/soul in the Quran, especially in the context of the stages of the ‘Nafs’. There are three ways in which the ‘Nafs’ is described in the Quran and we can be in any of these three states.
Indeed, the nafs that overwhelmingly commands a person to do sin (12:53).
This first type of ‘self’ is called Nafs Al-Ammarah, or the soul that commands. Nafs Al-Ammarah is the spirit that steers the self. It’s taking action without thinking things through clearly. The ‘Nafs’ commands and tells us what to do. The desires and wishes of the ‘Nafs’ dominate us. If this idea is then applied to the self, it can be perceived as being negative. For example, because I need self-care and to look after myself, I can justify spending money every week buying myself whatever I wish. Or self-love may be defined as cutting difficult people out of my life because I have no desire to be around them, and if I am, then it negates the concept of loving myself. Soon the idea of the self turns into protecting the ego, as the ego then becomes in charge.
The second type is called Nafs Al-Lawwamma:
And I do call to witness the Nafs that blames (75:2).
This is the soul that takes accountability for its actions. It becomes self-aware and feels remorse and guilt to the point the person begins to change. There is continuous conflict with the ‘Nafs’ to stay away from anything that displeases Allah swt.
But what if we could use The Self to reach Nafs Al-Mutma’innah, or the reassured soul.
To the righteous it will be said ‘oh reassured soul, return to your Lord well pleased and pleasing to Him’ (89:27-28)
Nafs Al-Mutma’innah is the ‘Nafs’ that has reached a state of contentment. It is at peace and tranquillity and desires good things. Content with the decree of Allah Almighty and inclined to give more to others and to have more love and compassion.
This is where I believe Tahajjud plays a significant role in our lives. This is how I perceive the self when it comes to Tahajjud.
Ramadan is the perfect time to establish a relationship with Tahajjud. With it, you receive two immense gifts: strengthening your connection with Allah SWT and developing a strong sense of self-awareness, acceptance, compassion and love. I pray that Tahajjud can be a path for our souls to reach the status of nafs Al-Mutma’innah and that we are inspired to wake up for this special prayer during Ramadan and beyond.
I am a senior quantity surveying working in the construction industry and in my spare time I make my own chocolate for making raw chocolate filled medjool dates and other refined sugar free snacks. Instagram handle attached. IG: @majesticmedjewels