Lecture for 1st year medical students on 4th August 2000 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.


1.4.1 PERSONALITY (al nafs)

A. Description Of Personality

B. The Nafs

C. Change Of Personality

D. Development Of Personality

E. Pollution Of The Personality



A. Tazkiyat In The Qur'an

B. The First Convenant (Al 'Ahad Al Awwal)

C. Tazkiyat And Personality

D. Tazkiyat Is By Allah

E. Human Efforts Toward Tazkiyat



A. Preliminaries Of Purification Of The Nafs

B. Tazkiyat At The Conceptual Level

C. Tazkiyat By Dhikr

D. Tazkiyat By  Physical Acts Of Worship

E. Tazkiyat By Giving, Infaq:


1.4.4 TAZKIYAT: MODELS OF PURITY (namadhij al tazkiyat)

A. Revelations (Al Kutub Al Samawiyah)

B. Prophets (Al Al Anbiya)

C. The Companions Of The Prophet (Al Sahabah)

D. The Righteous And The Reformers (Al Salihiin & Muslihiin)

E. Believers (Mu'uminun)



A. Character

B. Self-Improvement And Taking Charge

C. Assertiveness And Self-Confidence

D. Life-Style

E. Personality Failure


1.4.1 PERSONALITY (al nafs)


Definition: Personality is the totality of behavior of an individual with a given tendency system. Tendency means there is consistency.


Variations: People’s personalities differ (B 4:461 hadith # 699). Classification of people into neat and clear personality types is not easy. This is because each individuals exhibits characteristics of more than one personality type depending on the situation. For example Abubakr was known as a soft person whereas Omar was known as the tough person. When the prophet passed away, Abubakr was firm while Omar temporarily overwhelmed. It was the soft-spoken Abubakr who was determined to wage war against the apostates while Omar was advising restraint. Thus when we describe an individual as having a certain personality we are referring to the dominant characteristics without necessarily denying existence of any others.


Spectrum: The personality spectrum is quite wide. At one end are personalities in which negative attributes predominate and the other extreme are personalities in which the positive attributes predominate. Some acts of nobility may be found in hardened criminals. Some good people may in moments of weakness succumb to evil temptations. Most people are average having both the good and the bad. The exceptionally good and strong personalities are rare. The Prophet said that out of 100 persons you can hardly find one that fits the description of being exceptional (Sahih al Bukhari 8:3341 hadith #505). There is a modal personality for a community that is considered the ideal for that community. This is usually much below the universal ideal that is described by the Qur’an and the sunnat of the Prophet (PBUH) (Hayat al Sahabat 3:459-460)




Nafs and Physical body: The essence of a person is the nafs and not the physical body. Thus personality or behavior are referred to the nafs. The Quran expounds in very clear terms a distinct concept of individual creation, growth, and development. A human being is both body and soul, matter and spirit. It is the unique balance between the two contrasts that makes humans what they are, the highest creation.


Fitrat: The original condition of the human being is that of fitra which is uprightness. A human being is born in a natural state of purity (fitrat al Islam). The potential to do good or bad exists at the beginning. It is the early environment that determines how those potentials are enhanced. If the environment is good, the good potentials are promoted. If the environment is bad the bad potentials are encouraged.



The Qur’an has described several states of nafs, maraatib al nafs. The lowest rung is the tendency to evil, nafs ammarah (p 1258 12:53). The next higher level is conscience and concern with moral rectitude, nafs lawamah (p 1258 75:2). The third and highest level manifests in 6 ways: inspiration to piety and taqwah, nafs mulhamah (p. 146 91:8); satisfaction, nafs qanu’ah; calmness, nafs mutma’inna (p. 1258 89:27); being appreciative, nafs radhiyah (p. 1258 89:27-28); being appreciated by Allah, nafs mardhiyat (p. 1258 89:27-28), and perfection, nafs kamilah. The nafs that has achieved perfection is one that has rid itself of all negative attributes and has acquired all the positive ones.




The factors that determine the development of personality are: biological inheritance, physical environment, the culture, socialization, group and unique individual experiences. With the exception of biological inheritance, all these factors can be manipulated for good or for bad. A person has the capacity to overcome many disabilities in the basic personality. Thus behavior does not always reflect the underlying personality. It is this capacity for self-improvement, taking charge, and striving for the best that makes humans morally responsible.



It is a matter of disagreement whether personality once set is permanent or is changeable. The moderate view is that personality is fairly constant and only minor modifications can be made to it in later life. Personality is set quite early in life. It can change during life but these changes are minor. This emphasizes the importance of education and training early in life when the personality is still malleable and can be modified in the desired way.




Spirituality is a major component of personality.  Spirituality in Islam unlike other religions has practical manifestations at the individual and societal levels because Islam is a practical religion. Spiritual development starts with close observations of all acts of worship. The second step is avoiding all immoral attitudes, tendencies, values, and sins (major and minor). The third step is promoting the moral and good at the individual or societal levels.



Intellectual development helps improve personality. You must develop your mind continuously and actively. A mind left unused soon deteriorates. Get general as well as specialized knowledge. Observe phenomena of life carefully and try to learn from each as much as you can. Read as much as you can and as widely as possible. Visit other places to widen your knowledge. Always look for and deliberate on the signs of Allah in His creation. You can learn a lot by mixing and exchanging views with people from other cultures. Listen to thinkers and knowledgeable people. Try to stay around them as much as possible. Discuss with others. Exchange ideas so that you make check your ideas or pick up new ideas. Try to concentrate your thinking about particular problems and try to work out solutions.



The individual must struggle against natural tendencies to evil. This tendency can, if unchecked, lead to diseases of the heart, amradh al qalb. The Qur’an guides this struggle and leads it to a successful conclusion if it is followed well. The proper development of the nafs can be contaminated by the following common diseases: covetousness, shuhh (p. 1255 4:128, 59:9, 64:16); passion, shahwat (p. 1255 21:102, 41:31, 43:71);  pride'ujub (p. 1256 4:49); evil, fujuur (p. 1257 9:7-8); base desires, hiwa al nafs (p. 1259 2:87, 5:7, 53:23); and waswasat (p. 1259 5:30, 50:16). These pollutants may have inner promptings within the human. However they are mostly from the external environment which either introduces the contamination or encourages the inner negative promptings. A clean social environment will produce people with clean personalities. A corrupt environment will produce corrupt persons.




The Qur'an has discussed tazkiyat in many verses. (p 233 p 233-1342:129, 2:151, 2:232, 3:164, 4:49, 9:109, 18:74, 19:19, 20:75-76, 24:21, 24:28, 24:30, 35:18, 62:2, 79:18, 80:3, 80:7, 89:14, 91:7-9, 92:18). Tazkiyat is of cardinal importance in both the spiritual and social development of a person. One of the purposes of sending prophets is to ensure tazkiyat for humans. The historical record shows that the sending of messengers to various communities coincided with moments of excessive immorality or deviation from the truth. It is at such moments that the process of tazkiyat is most needed.


B. THE FIRST CONVENANT (al 'ahad al awwal)

Allah took a covenant from all humans before they came to earth that they would worship Him and Him alone (p. 852 7:172-173, 36:60). Tazkiyat is fulfilment and return to the first covenant between humans and Allah. Allah got a covenant from all human souls before they were created that they would obey Allah. When humans commit sins they are breaking that covenant. Tazkiyat as a process helps humans stick to their part of the covenant.



Tazkiyat is the basis for development and improvement of the personality. It is a long, pro-active, and uphill task. It is not an easy esoteric rite or overnight formula. Misunderstanding of tazkiyat manifests when people look for quick methods of becoming better. Some may visit graves of the righteous, some may repeat certain supplications for a given number of times. Yet others subject themselves to physical suffering in the hope that will lead to spiritual purity. All of these are forms of escapism from facing the real challenges of tazkiyat.



Allah purifies whom He wants (p 233-234 4:49, 24:21). All human effort at tazkiyat should always be accompanied by supplication, dua, for Allah's intervention without which human effort will bear no fruit. On the other hand, it is wrong for a human to make no effort and passively expect Allah to intervene. Humans must play their role before expecting Allah's help. 



The human can do a lot to purify the nafs. The Qur'an talks about humans who purified themselves and about human efforts toward purification (p. 233-234 20:75-76, 35:18, 79:18, 80:3, 80:7, 87:14, 91:7-9, 92: 18). Humans have been described by the Qur'an as clean (p 233-4 18:74, 19:19). Some human self-purification, tazkiyat, involves: correct and firm aqidat, fulfillment of acts of ibadat, avoiding the forbidden, generally being conscious of the creator, and constant meditation about the creation. This is followed by personal development and improvement which consists of a good character and behavior; assertiveness, and self-confidence. An individual may not succeed alone. Living in a righteous community surrounded by others is necessary to motivate and encourage purification. Islam is a practical religion. Achievement of purity is through action. Good behavior, avoiding bad behavior, and being strong and assertive in making correct choices is the practical way to purity.




Good intentions, niyyat hasanat: 4:100: Tazkiyat is not accidental. It is a pro-active process. It must be based on the good and sincere intention to please Allah and get near Him. The process of tazkiyat can not be sustained if done for other reasons.


Commitment, ikhlaas: 98:5, 39:2: Tazkiyat can be a difficult process especially at the start. Some may try and think of giving up. Continuing commitment is needed to be able to travel all the way to the end of the process.


Being true, sidq: 9:119: The person undertaking tazkiyat must be true to self, to others and to Allah. True to self means understanding and accepting yourself as you are with all the negatives and positives such that the negatives can be suppressed while the positives can be enhanced.  Being true to others is saying and acting according to the truth and never deceiving or giving the wrong impressions.


Surrender to Allah, istislam li laah: (p. 129 3:101, 3:103, 4:146, 4:175, 22:78): The thoughts, acts of commission, and acts of omission of the person undertaking tazkiyat must all be for the sake of Allah the almighty.


Earnest entreaty to Allah, al tadharu'u li laah (6:43): Tazkiyat requires that a very strong desire and longing to turn to Allah and get near Him. This gives a sense of direction and a sense of purpose to the tazkiyat efforts.



Answering the call of Allah, al istijabat li llaah: The path is virtue is the straight path, al siraat al mustaqiim. Humans must stick to the straight path, al istiqamat ala al tariiq (p 100 6:126, 7:16, 11:56, 15:41, 16:76, 20:135, 36:4, 43:43, 43:61, 67:22, 81:28). Sticking to the straight path has a lot of virtues (p. 99-100 41:30-32, 46:13-14, 72:16). Those who stick to the path of virtue are answering the call of Allah, al istijabat li laah (p 98 3:173, 8:24, 13:18, 14:44, 17:52, 42:16, 42:26, 42:38, 42:47). The misguided ignore this call or turn away from it. They end up following the wring paths that lead them to perdition.


Renouncing materialism, al zuhd fi al duniya: Zuhd is giving priority to the after life, ithaar al akhirat. Preferring the material world, iithaar al duniyat, is severely condemned by the Qur'an (p 171 79:37-39, 78:16). The hereafter is better than the material world, tafdhiil al akhirat ala al duniyat (34-35 3:14-15, 3;185, 4:77, 6:32, 10:23, 13:26, 17:18-19, 18:45-46, 28:60-61, 28:79-80, 29:64, 31:33, 40:39, 42:36, 43:32, 43:35, 47:36, 57:20-21, 62:11, 75:20-21, 76:27, 79:37-41, 87:16-17, 89:17-24, 93:4, 102:1-8). Zuhd has been misunderstood by many down the centuries. It does not mean withdrawal from life and making no contribution to the building of a material civilization. Neither does it mean refusing to enjoy the bounties that Allah put on the earth for the benefit of humans. Living like a hermit may not be the total or only meaning of zuhd. Zuhd means belittling materialism and having a correct relation to material goods as things to be used by humans in the fulfillment of their duties to Allah and not as masters who control human behavior. A person may own a lot of money and material goods but he knows that in front of Allah they are worth very little. He will not be intoxicated by nor worship material goods. He will have a higher scale of values that he refers to. His maximum pleasure will not be attained by material possessions. Zuhd also means not selling eternal values for the sake of temporary material advantage on earth; such a trade is indeed a losing trade. A human should live on earth as a stranger, ghariib, or a traveler, abir sabiil, (KS 236) in the knowledge that the life in the hereafter is eternal and that all the time spent on earth should be used to prepare for the hereafter.


Vigilance against shaitan, al hadhr min al shaitan: Shaitan is an enemy of humans (p. 65-66 2:168, 2:208, 5:91, 6:142, 7:11, 7:22, 15:31-33, 17:53, 17:61-64, 18:50, 20:116-120, 25:29, 35:6, 36:60, 38:71-76, 43:62). A human who wants to stay pure must be vigilant against shaitan's influence (p 65 2:168-169, 4:76, 6:121, 6:142, 7:27, 24:21, 34:20-21, 36:60, 43:62). Shaitan has limited influence over human action (KS 49). He causes waswasat (p. 67 2:36, 4:38, 4:120, 6:43, 6:112, 6:121, 7:20-22, 20:120, 22:52-53, 27:24, 29:38, 47:25, 58:10, 114:4-6). He leads astray, ighwa al shaitan (p. p?  2:168-169, 2:268, 4:60, 4:117-119, 5:90, 7:14-18, 8:48, 15:37-43, 16:63, 17:62-64, 24:21, 26:221-223, 27:24, 28:15, 36:62, 38:82-85, 58:19, 59:16).  Shaitan is never away from humans. Every human has a shaitan around him or her (KS 106). The Prophet in a very revealing metaphor said that shaitan circulates in the human body as does the blood (KS 49). Shaitan will always try to confuse humans. He for example will attempt to prevent the human from waking up in the morning to pray (KS 48, KS 48). The human is however not helpless against shaitan. There are many simple actions that will chase shaitan away and all of these are part of the process of tazkiyat. The sound of adhan makes the shaitan run away (KS 48). Reading Qur'an also chases away shaitan. Thus a human who is regular in prayer and recites the Qur'an often as a guide to life will be vigilant against the machinations of shaitan.



Remembrance of Allah, dhikr: Dhikr has many virtues (KS 241). Allah orders humans to remember Him, al amr bi dhikr al llaah (p 444 2:152, 2:198, 2:200, 2:203, 2:239, 3:41, 4:103, 5:4, 7:205, 8:45, 18:24, 22:36, 33:41, 62:10, 73:8, 76:25).  The Qur'an calls upon humans to remember Allah a lot, al ikthar min al dhikr (p 444 3:41, 8:45, 20:34, 26:227, 33:21, 33:35, 33:41, 26:10). Dhikr is at all times (p. 446 3:41, 6:5, 7:205, 18;2, 19:1, 20:130, 24:36, 30:1, 39:9, 40:55, 50:39-40, 51:17-18, 52:48-49, 86:25-26). Neglect of dhikr is severely condemned (p. 445 2:114, 4:142, 5:91, 6:138, 17:46-17, 18:28, 18:57, 18:100-101, 20:124, 21:42, 23:110, 37:13, 39:22, 39:45, 43:36, 58:19, 63:9, 72:17). It should be remembered that all human action if done with the correct intention and according to the sharia is worship and is a type of dhikr. Dhikr can be in the heart, qalb (p. 7:205, 13:28, 18:28), in acts of ibadat (p. 446 2:198, 2:200, 2:203, 2:238-239, 4:103, 20:14, 22:28, 22:34, 22:36, 62:9, 87:15), or by social action (p. 446 5:4, 6:118, 6:119, 6:121, 8:45). The simple methods of dhikr that the prophet taught are: al isti'adhat, al istighfar, al tasbiih, al tahmiid, and al tahliil. The essence of these formulas is internal and not just the routine repetition of words.


Seeking refugee with Allah, al isti'adhat bi allah: One of the methods of self-purification is to seek refugee with Allah from various evils.  The most important is to seek refugee with Allah from the shaitan, isti'adhat min al shaitan (p. 99 3:36, 7:200-201, 16:98, 23:97-98, 41:36, 113:1-5, 114:1-6, KS 71) using the formula: 'audhu bi llaahi min al shaitan al shaitan al rajiim. Refugee can also be sought from humans who in their behavior and actions are like agents of shaitan, shaitan al ins (KS 78). Refugee should also be sought from shaitan that comes in the shape of the invisible jinn, al isti'adhat min shaitan al jinn. The human should always seek refugee from incurring the wrath of Allah, al isti'adhat min ghdhab al allah (KS 77). The wrath of Allah is incurred by committing the forbidden or failing to undertake obligatory duties. Refugee should also be sought from ignorance, al isti'adhat min al jahl,  (    ) and from evil of any kind, al isti'adhat min al sharr (p. 99 113:1-5, 114:1-6)


Seeking forgiveness from Allah, al istighfar: Seeking the forgiveness of Allah has a lot of good (KS 80). The Qur'an has emphasized istighfar in many verses (p 99 3:135, 4:64, 4;110, 8:33, 9:113-114, 51:18). Belivers are instructed ro seek forgiveness (p. 100 4;106, 5:74, 11:3, 40:55, 41;6, 47:19, 71:10, 110:6). Forgiveness is sought at all times even late in the night (p 100 3:17, 51:18). Forgiveness is sought for past, current and even future sins. Forgiveness is also sought for evil intentions that may lead to sin. Allah never tires of listening to His servants seeking forgiveness during the day and night. The formula for istighfar is 'astaghfirullah'


Tasbiih: Tasbiih can be in salat (KS 136) or outside salat. The Prophet taught several formulas, methods, and occasions for tasbiih that are recorded in the books of sunnat (KS 136). The basic formula for tasbih is 'subhana al laah'


Tahmiid: Tahmid is mentioned in several verses of the Qur'an (p. 345-346 1:2, 2:30, 6:1, 6:45, 7:43, 9:112, 10:10, 13:13, 14:39, 15:98, 16:75, 17:44, 17:52, 18:1, 17:111, 20:130, 23:28, 25:58, 27:15, 27:59, 27:93, 28:80, 29:63, 30:18, 31:25, 32:15, 34:1, 35:1, 35:34, 37:182, 39:29, 39:74-75, 40:7, 40:55, 40:65, 42:5, 45:36, 50:39, 52:48, 64:1, 110:3). Those who praise the Lord achieve a lot of good (KS 137). The basic formula for tahmid is 'alhamudu li llaahi'


Tahliil: The basic formula for tahlil is 'la ilaaha illa al llaahu'. Tahliil has many virtues that have been mentioned in the books of sunnat (KS 136)


Supplication, dua: Dua is a type of worship, al dua ibadat. By making supplication to Allah whether in need or not, the human is reaffirming his need and dependence on the creator. Dua has many virtues and benefits, thawab al dua (p 420 52:22-28, KS 229). The Qur'an has provided several formulas for dua (p. 421-423 1:6, 2;127-128, 2:201, 2;250, 2:285-286, 3:8-9, 3:16, 3:35-36, 3:38, 3:53, 3:147, 3:191-194, 4:75, 5:83, 5:114, 7:23, 7:47, 7:89, 7:126, 7:143, 7:149, 7:151, 7:156, 10:10, 10:85-86, 10:88, 12:101, 14:38-41, 17:24, 17:80, 18:10, 20:25-27, 20:114, 21:83, 21:89, 23:29, 23:97-98, 23:109, 23:118, 25:65, 25:74, 26:83-89, 27:19, 28:16, 28:21, 34:41, 39:46, 40:7-9, 40:44, 43:13-14, 44:12, 46:15, 59:10, 60:4, 66:8, 66:11, 68:29, 68:32, 71:28, 113:1-5, 114:1-6). The Prophet, in addition, taught us many formulas for dua and we have a big choice (KS 229). Allah ordered humans to supplicate at all time and all circumstances, al amr bi al dua (p 420 2:186, 4:32, 5:35, 7:29, 6:40-43, 7:55-56, 7;180, 17:110, 40:14, 40:60, 40:65). Allah will respond to the supplication either sooner or later, istijabat al dua (p 97-98 2:186, 3:195, 8:9, 10:89, 11:61, 12:34, 21:76, 21:84, 21:88, 21:90, 27:62, 37:75, 40:60). Four conditions are necessary for the response to the supplication to occur: tadharu'u consciousness of Allah, khawf  (p. 420 7:55-56, 40:14), hope from Allah, raja or tam'a (p 420 7:55-56, 32:16), ihsan (p. 420 7:55-56), commitment, ikhlas (p 420 40:14, 40:65, 7:29, 10;22, 29:65, 31:32). Dua is at all times (p. 425 6:52, 18:28, 32:16) and must be accompanied by tadharu'u, khawf, tam'an, raghbat, and rahbat (p. 425 6:63, 7:55-56, 21:9, 32:16). 



Salat: Salat is the best of works (KS 309). Being conscious of and observing the 5 obligatory prayers is commanded (KS 314). It is not possible to achieve tazkiyat without salat. Salat has a lot of impact on the human towards the good, aathaar al salat (p. 710-711 23:1-2, 29:45, 31:4-5, 70:19-35, 74:42-47, 87:14-15).   Salat is expiation of sins, al salat kaffarat (KS 308, KS 309). Salat can be likened to a river passing infront of a person's door washing away sins 5 times a day (KS 308). The words and actions of salat are direct communication with Allah, al salat munajaat al llaah (KS 309). Salat is sacrifice, al salat qurbaan (KS 309). Night prayer, tahajjud, has special virtues (KS 143). It is carried out when others are enjoying their sleep. It has a deeper impact on the worshipper because it is possible to concentrate more at night when environmental sensory stimulation is minimal.


Fasting, Saum: Saum is is the zakat of the body (KS 325). The term zakat here has both a biological and metaphorical meaning of purifying. By controlling appetite, saum cleanses the body of excessive nutrients that are harmful. It also helps build up endurance and self-control that help cleanse the person of sins. Saum is a reason for forgiveness, ghufran (KS 325). It is expiation of sins, al saum kaffarat (KS 302).



The Qur'an has used the word sadaqat to refer to both obligatory and voluntary charity (p. 672-673 2:196, 2:2263-264, 2:271, 2:276, 2:280, 4:92, 4:114, 5:45, 9:58, 9:60, 9:75, 9:79, 9;103-104, 12:86, 12:88, 33:35, 57:18, 58:12-13, 63:10). Sadaqat is a great virtue. Giving away wealth cleanses the giver from the disease of covetousness. Covetousness, al shuhh (59:9) is a negative human attribute. Giving even if small is significant (KS 138). Zakat cleanses the remaining wealth (p 233 9:103). The giving must be sincere preferably done without publicity (KS 138). Reminding the recipient of favours done to them, al mann, is one of the greatest sins. The meaning of sadaqat is wider than material giving. All good acts are considered sadaqat (KS 302, 303).


Go to Part II

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr August 2000