Nafs, is an Arabic word with several different meanings including substance; ego, individual; person; soul or spirit, mind, self. The understanding of self is of paramount importance because as individuals we wonder who we are; where we come from; what the purpose of our life is, and what real happiness and misery consist of. Al-Kindî, Razi, Farabi and Avicenna, as well as Sufi mystics as Ghazali, Sanai, Attar and Balkhi-Rumi emphasize the immortal nature of the soul that returns through various stages to be in proximity to its Creator. Both philosophers and Sufi mystics agree that the purpose of man’s life is the discovery of the unique “tree” of knowledge, consumption of its fruits bringing man “immortality”. They all concur that there is no higher knowledge than the knowledge of self; as “He who knows himself knows God”. The attainment of knowledge is perceived as a divine command as per Islamic tradition, God says, “I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known, so I created the creation in order that I might be known”. Every object reflects one or more of the divine attributions, however, Man, as the microcosm, reflects them all. Man, is the eye of the world, whereby God sees His own works”. Ghazali, Sanai and Rumi, concur “although man is not primordial, he is eternal; while his corpus is terrestrial, his soul is divine; and although his essence is mixed with animal and voracious attributes; if he gets rid of his maleficence, man will reach the proximity of God. Al-Kindî, Razi, Farabi and Avicenna stress the immortal nature of the soul, created by God. Farabi defines the soul as “that by which the living substance is realized as substance”. Razi’ in “Opera Philosophica” and Avicenna’ in “Book of Healing” outline the human soul as a tripartite; animal, located in the heart; vegetative - located in liver and divine, located in brain enlisting the higher passion. Likewise, Sufi mystics, Muslim philosophers believe a superior person who avoids physical desires and pursues wisdom, justice, goodness; will reach the proximity of the Creator.
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