Human Inclination

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Tarefe says,

"When Allah mentions the ‘nafs’ in the Qur’ān, He dispraises it, and when He mentions the ‘mind’, He praises it, because the trial of the mind comes from the hawā (whims) of the nafs; they mix one’s views with the hawā thereby causing it to go astray:

إِنَّ النَّفْس لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ

“Indeed, the nafs is inclined to evil.” [Yūsuf 12:53]

In this context, are humans inclined to good or to evil?

What is difference between the nafs and ‘the mind’ in this case?

Every child is born with a natural belief in Allah. This natural belief is called the 'fitrah'. If a child were left alone, it would grow up aware of Allah, the One Supreme Creator, but all children are affected by the pressures of their environment.

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) stated that Allah said: "I created My servants in the right religion, but the devils made them go astray."[1]

The Prophet (ﷺ) also said: "Each child is born in a state of fitrah, but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian."[2]

Every human being is born with the fitrah, which is something pure and good in itself:

"So set your purpose for religion as a man upright (hanifan) by nature (fitrah) - the nature (fitrah) framed by God, in which He created mankind. There is no altering (the Laws of) the creation of God." [3]


In this verse, Allah identifies the fitrah with the way of the hanifa, which means the way of Pure Monotheism as practiced by Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ

We are born with good within us, but we may change due to environmental influences, and our nafs may become corrupt.

The mind/intellect is called ‘aql’ which is the ability to rationalize and discern. It is used to make sound decisions, recognize Allah’s existence, understand our relation to Him, worship and submit to Him.

The soul/self is called ‘nafs’, which can be pure or corrupt, or somewhere in between.

The Qur’an mentions three types of souls:

  1. An-Nafs Al-Ammaara Bis Soo (Surah Yusuf) – the soul that commands evil, instigates humans towards evil.
  2. An Nafs Al-Lawwaaamah (Surah Qiyaamah) – the reproachful soul, aware of evil, feels guilty, has a moral conscience, repentant and tries to change.
  3. An Nafs Al-Mutma’innah (Surah Al-Fajr) – the peaceful soul, at ease, strong connection with Allah.

If the nafs is corrupt/evil, it may allow the ‘aql and other parts of the body to sin and commit evil deeds. However, if the nafs is pure, it will submit to Allah’s orders, and not cross His limits.

For example, we know that revelation must always precede ‘aql. A disbelieving soul may give his/her rationality (‘aql) more importance than the verses of Allah, but a pure soul will put revelation above ‘aql, because we may not comprehend things with our limited senses as we know that Allah is the Knower of all things.


[1] Sahih Muslim

[2] Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim

[3] Surah Ar-Rum, 30:30

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