Functions of the Soul

SHAFAQNA – The human soul performs various functions in the body, like growth, senses, digestion etc. According to a Muslim scholar, there are four ‘souls’ in a true believer. Actually, he means that there are four facets in the soul of a true believer:

The Soul of Vegetation and Growth: It has five workers (or functions): It obtains the food, keeps it securely, digests it, removes the waste and turns the digested food into parts of the body. Also it has two properties: Growth and Decay.

The Soul of Animation and Senses: This also has five workers (i.e., functions): Sight, hearing, smelling, taste and touch. And it has two properties: Love and Hate.

The Soul of Reason and Purity: This aspect of human soul has five powers: Thinking, memory, knowledge, forbearance, and dignity. Also it has two properties: Purity and Wisdom.

The Soul of Divinity: This also has five powers: To be immortal in mortality; to get bliss in adversity; to find honour in apparent disgrace; to be poor in riches; and to have patience in hardships. And it has two properties: To accept the will of Allah and to submit to His decrees.

And this soul is the one which, in this context, is called ‘An-Nafs al-Mutma’innah’ (The Tranquil Soul).

These different aspects of human soul have been given here in brief, to show that just as a diamond, when uncut, is valuable, but not as much as it would be after being cut; likewise, a human soul in the beginning, is honourable, but not as much as it would be after being put to test. And as we all know, there are various ‘cuts’ of a diamond: the one having the utmost number of facets, is considered the most valuable; and the value decreases if there are less facets. Likewise, if a soul has got all the above-mentioned facets, it is the most honoured one in the eyes of Allah. But if it loses its facets described in the last paragraph, i:e., the facet called ‘the Soul of Divinity’, then it is considered worthless.

Looking from another angle, the soul has three other facets:

1. An-Nafs-al-Ammarah (The soul which urges man to do evil). If the individual fights against this urge successfully with his faith in God and his determination to do only good, the strength of the will is increased and the individual remains safe against the strongest temptations of satanic forces.

It was this aspect of the soul that the prophet Yusuf (A. S.) referred to when he said:-

“And I boast not of the purity of my soul; verily the soul is wont to bid (one to) evil, except those on whom my Lord has mercy; for Gracious is my Lord, the Merciful.”( Qur’an, 12:53).

1. An-Nafs-al-Lawwamah (The Reproaching Soul): We call it “conscience”. It is the power of the soul which reproaches the man whenever he goes astray from right path. Allah has honoured this facet of soul by swearing by it in the 75th Sura:

Nay! I swear by the self-reproaching soul”( Qur’an, 75:2).

Repeated sins blunt the edge of this reproach, and gradually a time comes when the evil-doer does not feel the pang of conscience. If one has already reached that stage, nothing can save him from eternal disgrace.

1. An-Nafs-al-Mutma’innah (The Tranquil Soul): Its powers and properties have been mentioned in the last chapter. It is the soul which has conquered all desires and has completely surrendered itself to the Will of Allah. This is the highest stage of the perfection of the soul. Allah has referred to this aspect of the soul in the following verses:-

“O thou Tranquil soul, return to thy Lord, well pleased, well pleasing (to Him)’ enter thou amongst My servants, and enter thou My paradise.”(Qur’an, 89:27-30).

Shaykh as-Saduq has described the various facets of the soul in a very clear way. The example of the ‘cuts’ of diamond should be kept in mind when reading the following description taken from his book.
“It is our belief that there are five spirits in the prophets, and Imams: The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Faith, The Spirit of Strength, The Spirit of Desire, and The Spirit of Animation (or Life); “And the believers have four spirits: The Spirit of Faith, The Spirit of Strength, The Spirit of Desire, and The Spirit of Life;
“And the unbelievers and animals have three spirits. The Spirit of Strength, the Spirit of Desire, and The Spirit of Life”.

Thus, the more the facets to be found in a soul, the more prestige it acquires in the eyes of Allah.

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