Understanding the Meaning and Function of AQL and NAFS

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For one’s spiritual development to be in a positive balanced state it requires the aql and nafs to be synchronised and to override its negative counterparts. Aql (intellect & reason) and nafs (ego) are just two parts of an interconnection of faculties within human beings. Aql is not only the operation of thinking, but has faculties within itself that are vital to comprehend. The aql differentiates man from animal, it is where knowledge is absorbed and its attainment produces a noble man. The aql is the medium that needs to be disciplined for only its positive gain for its spiritual journey, therefore reflecting and remembering God and His creation and Revelation. The nafs is a metaphysical system abundant in negative attributes, but a variable entity within us to allow us to appreciate the positivity when guided in the right path in one’s spiritual journey. Spiritual cleansing (tazikyah al-nafs) can be practiced for one to reach such a positive balanced state for the nafs. Therefore synchronising the aql and nafs towards positivity, will result in attaining a balanced spiritual state.
Understanding the meaning and function of aql, moreover identifying its various faculties is required in order to achieve a balanced spiritual state. From an Islamic perspective aql actually refers to the spiritual aql and not the conventional meaning we identify as the physical brain (Akhir, 2012). Past and present Islamic scholars have described aql as reason and intellect, but in philosophical depth, more so as a light that enables man to receive knowledge (Akhir, 2012; Ghazzālī & Skellie 2007). Nasr (1979) further supplements the aql, as keenness of perception, foresight and common sense. The divine light aql as referred to, allows a person to ...

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