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The Nafs and the Ruh

By way of metaphor, one can describe the centre of the human experience as the being in the chest. And one can distinguish between fundamentally two different modalities, two modalities that you can experience the subject as, the subject being the self or the one that’s experiencing. In Tasawwuf we refer to one modality as nafs and the other modality as ruh.

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The Sacred Schizoidity of the Soul (Self)

Our nafs (self or soul) is the greatest gift from Allah to us, and at the same time our deadliest enemy. Rather it is an amanah that Allah has entrusted us with, so we must honor and appreciate it, but also fight and subdue that aspect of it, which will cause our ruin, if we do not guard ourselves against it. The most cited metaphor for it is that of a wild riding beast, which will try to throw off its rider, as long as it is untamed, but which becomes a trusted companion and support in his quest, if he masters it.

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