References of Ethics
Qur'an • Nahj al-balagha • Misbah al-shari'a wa miftah al-haqiqa • Makarim al-Akhlaq • Al-Mahajjat al-bayda' • Tanbih al-khawatir wa nuzhat al-nawazir • Jami' al-sa'adat • Mi'raj al-sa'ada • Al-Muraqabat
Al-Nafs al-lawwāma, (Arabic: النَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ) or the self-critical soul, is a psychological state in which one criticizes oneself, or feels guilty, for his or her wrongs. The term is derived from the second verse of Qur'an 75. Muslim scholars have provided different accounts of the self-critical soul in their exegeses of this verse.
The self-critical soul is contrasted to commanding soul and soul at peace. According to Muslim scholars, man has just one identity. When he or she follows reason, their self is known as self-critical, and when they act against reason, the same self is known as commanding, and when they achieve peace, it will be characterized as being at peace.
The self-critical soul is, according to Murtada Mutahhari, a stage of the soul higher than the commanding soul and lower than the soul at peace. Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi suggests that it is a state of the soul in which one regrets his or her wrongdoings, feeling guilty about them. The term appears in Qur'an 75:2: “And I swear by the self-critical soul.”
The self-critical soul has been identified with the so-called “conscience” which blames one’s own self after committing a wrongdoing, leading to guilty or troubled conscience.
The Difference from the Commanding Soul and the Soul at Peace
The self-critical soul is contrasted to the commanding soul and the soul at peace. The commanding soul is a state of the soul in which one does not comply with his or her reason, turning to wrongdoings. The soul at peace is the state in which one develops the habit of compliance with reason and arrives at peace.
The Compatibility of Different Souls with the Oneness of Human Identity
According to Muslim scholars, the fact that man has different souls such as self-critical, commanding, and at peace, is not in conflict with the fact that man has the same soul or identity. They believe that man has only one soul or identity, and these notions denote different stages and states of the same soul.
According to Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi, the soul sometimes commands wrong deeds, in which case it will be characterized as the commanding soul, and it sometimes blames or criticizes itself for its wrongdoings, in which case it will be dubbed self-critical.
Murtada Mutahhari suggests that man does not have two “I”s or two “selves.” Indeed, he has one self with different degrees. He is sometimes at its lowest where he does not comply with reason—the commanding soul—and sometimes at higher levels where he is more vigilant, criticizing oneself for his wrongdoings—the self-critical soul.
The Self-Critical Soul in Exegetical Books
In exegetical books, different conceptions of the soul are presented, such as the following:
- It is the believer’s soul when he criticizes himself for his sins or failures to do good things. This is accepted by 'Allama Tabataba'i.
- The soul of all people, both righteous and evil-doers, on the day of resurrection, since on that day evil-doers will blame themselves for having failed to be pious, and the righteous will blame themselves for having failed to worship more frequently in this world. This is attributed to 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas.
- It is the sinner's soul on the day of resurrection, because on that day they will blame themselves for their sins.
- It refers to pious people who will blame the sinners on the day of resurrection.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from نفس لوامه in Farsi WikiShia.