We are not humans because of the physical body but rather due to the soul. We need to focus on the soul on its entire journey from its origin till the final destination that Allah has designated it. By focussing on the soul and fulfilling its requirements, Allah will make us amongst those who are successful as they have purified their souls and at the time of death the angels will announce to them:
يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ
ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً
فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي
Oh Content Soul!
Return unto your Lord pleased with him and He pleased with you.
Enter amongst My servants
and enter into My gardens
[Surah al-Fajr, 27-30]
The soul is one, but depending on the actions of an individual it goes through different stages and can be characterised by any of the following three terms:
1. Nafsun Ammarah.
Every human being has nafsun ammarah; this soul always drives the body to sin and always compels the body to disobey Allah سبحانه وتعالى. It always sinks lower and lower and reduces a person to his whims, desires and passions. When a person can rise from that low state of nafsun ammarah to a higher state then he reaches a stage where his soul is nafsun lawwamah, the intermediary stage.
2. Nafsun Lawwamah.
This stage is not as lowly as nafsun ammarah. A person reaches a stage where there is both good and evil in him. At this stage, a person sins but then feels remorse. His nafs (soul) laments and rebukes him for sinning and displeasing Allah. This is a far greater stage than nafsun ammara. But we should not rest here and should try and attain the lofty rank of nafsun mutma’innah.
3. Nafsun Mutma’innah.
This is the stage where a person is at peace and content with dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Despite the state a person may be in physically, either in terms of material possessions or the body, his heart will forever be in a state of peace and contentment. This will continue till death, if the person remains on course. It is at this stage when the angels will say to him, ‘Oh Content Soul! Return unto your lord pleased with him and He pleased with you. Enter amongst my servants and enter into my gardens’ [Surah al-Fajr, 27-30].
Thus, it is our duty as believers to raise the soul from the lower depths and from the pits and to sustain it with the divine nourishment of the remembrance of Allah سبحانه وتعالى, Islam and the Qur’an and thereby bring the soul upwards until it becomes nafsun mutma’innah
[This short excerpt is based on a lecture delivered by Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq in 1997, Journey of the Soul after Death. For a more comprehensive understanding of this topic please refer to that lecture].